If you want to become an antivaxxer, Thimerosal is a great place to start because it's easy to trigger buzz words the public has learned to equate with danger. It usually goes something like, "Thimerosal is in vaccines, thimerosal has mercury, mercury is a neurotoxin, therefore vaccines are toxic."
If you've read already how vaccine ingredients are safe, this one might be a review for you.
First, let's measure, then we'll explore just how dangerous thimerosal is.
How much Thimerosal is in most vaccines?
Yep, there was such a fuss about this ingredient that manufacturers removed it logically fearing people would stop taking the things. Now that it's removed, this fact is often brought up as smoking gun, "if it wasn't dangerous, why did they remove it?" Sometimes you can't win.
However, multi-dose shots like the flu vaccine do still use it but these are still available in non-thimerosal forms.
All vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger in the U.S. are available in formulations that do not contain thimerosal.
So in those shots? How much? (Using this source)
To get an idea, let's understand what 1 mL, one thousandth of a liter looks like:
A vaccine is typically half that quantity, 0.5mL. Here's what that looks like:
Notice it's actually just a few drops. And that's the whole vaccine. If it had thimerosal in it, how much would that be?
In the flu vaccine, thimerosol is 0.01%. Notice there are about five drops in the above clip. Each 0.1 mL is approximately a drop of liquid. So a drop is 20% of the vaccine. Doing the math, that means the thimerosal is 0.05% of a drop! That's 0.0005 mL. It's so small, we typically say it's 0.01 micro Liter.
Lean in, we're going to show you what that looks like:
See the thin blue line at the bottom? This is the scale we're working at.
We ingest mercury all the time.
Mercury is not as rare as you think, and we already consume it at safe levels.
- Mercury Factsheet | National Biomonitoring Program | CDC
- Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012) | FDA
But how bad is it?
We must first understand the difference between ethyl- and methylmercury (etHg and meHg respectively). meHg is commonly in foods and is more toxic than etHg.
Ethylmercury, on the other hand, can be broken down by the body easily as long as it's introduced in the body at a safe level.
Usually this information is left out and the focus instead is on etHg, like meHg being a neurotoxin. This sounds pretty scary until you realize that neurotoxicity is based on dosage.
Ethanol is a neurotoxin. It's the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverage and is produced naturally in some foods. Really, it lives in any yeast habitat and yeasts are everywhere.
Glutamate is a neurotoxin and it's also naturally occuring as a neurotransmitter in all vertebrates.
Have studies shown thimerosal is safe?
But of course.
Today, unfortunately, a father-son team are messing with the data.