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Thiomersal PDF Print E-mail




Thiomersal (also known as thimerosal) is a mercury based preservative used in some vaccines and other pharmaceutical products such as antiseptics and contact lens solution. It is used to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. It has also been used during vaccine production both to inactivate certain organisms and toxins and to maintain a sterile production line.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in the earth’s crust, soil, water and the air. Mercury is released into the environment by volcanic eruptions, weathering of rocks and the burning of coal. Once released mercury can find its way through the food chain via fish and other animals. At high levels it can be toxic. Mercury can have harmful effects on the central nervous system, skin and kidneys, cases of the toxic effects of mercury have been from methylmercury ( more toxic ), not ethylmercury ( less toxic ).

Not all mercury is created equally and some forms pose a greater health risk than others. For example mercury vapour is extremely dangerous whereas amalgam, used in dental fillings, has not been shown to pose a health risk.

Mercury becomes harmful only after it reaches a certain level in the body. The toxicity depends on the amount of mercury consumed in relation to body weight and can accumulate over a period of time. Infants are therefore at greater risk than adults because they are smaller.

When thiomersal-containing vaccines are in the childhood vaccination schedule, the maximum number of doses of thiomersal-containing vaccines a 6 month old child might have received was as follows:

  • 3 doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine,
  • 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine, and
  • 3 doses of Hib vaccine.

This would have resulted in a total intake of 175 µg of ethylmercury, which is equivalent to about 1.9 µg/kg body weight per week, for an average-sized baby. This level is well below the World Health Organization (WHO) limit for methylmercury. Studies measuring mercury levels in the blood of infants given thiomersal-containing vaccines have indicated that their blood concentrations of mercury did not rise above designated levels, except possibly transiently in a premature infant less than 1kg in weight.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 February 2009 15:47


Jagannath Chatterjee
+5 # Thiomersal in VaccinesJagannath Chatterjee 2011-08-03 15:27
Thiomersal (49.6% ethylmercury by weight)was invented in 1920 by Eli Lilly. The only clinical study in 1930 by Eli Lilly was on 22 patients in an Indiana hospital all of whom died within days. As they were suffering from mengiococcal meningitis, the deaths are ascribed to the disease and thiomersal was declared safe. In 1982 after getting a report of the toxicity of the compound the FDA orders recall of thiomersal from all over the counter products except vaccines but recommends a study of the incidence of neurological problems between vaccinated and unvaccinated Amish children. In July 19, 2005 Dr Julie Gerberding, Head of the CDC says such a study would not be feasible. In 1999 the CDC and AAP call for its immediate removal from US vaccines. Vaccines sent to developing countries continue to have 25mcg of mercury per dose. As per EPA limit a child would have to weigh 550lbs to tolerate a single dose. Ethylmercury converts to inorganic mercury which permanently lodges in the brain.
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+1 # Awesome CommentTapan 2012-10-29 15:20
Dear Sir, I am so happy to see your post above. I always had a nagging suspicion about vaccines and had read a little about how much damage mercury can cause to human bodies. However your comment is concise, specific and fact based which is gr8 to see.
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