A record 130 million Americans are expected to get a flu shot this season in hopes of ducking the nasty virus, but as the needle pierces the skin more than 80% will also get what some say is a hefty and dangerous dose of mercury.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that almost everyone - including pregnant women - get the injection, despite written warnings from the vaccine manufacturers.
Citing an estimated 36,000 deaths a year from the flu and flu-related illness, the mainstream medical community, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Lung Association, says the benefits far exceed any risk from the shot.
In a typical year between 5% and 10% of the population will get the flu virus, resulting in roughly 200,000 hospitalizations, according to the CDC. The flu can be especially dangerous for very young children and people 65 and older. Elderly people account for about 90% of all flu-related deaths.
Simply stated: The flu shot saves lives, the CDC says.
Yet a growing number of doctors, scientists and citizen organizations, such as Safe Minds, the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs and Moms Against Mercury, say mercury in flu shots has not been proven to be safe and can be linked to neurological disorders and other serious problems. They push for mercury-free shots that are available in limited quantities but that few know about.
"Mercury causes tremendous damage to the brain," said Paul King, scientific adviser for the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs.
Mercury is among the most toxic heavy metals and is known to poison the central nervous system, liver, gastrointestinal tract and other systems in the body.
About 80% of all flu shots distributed in the United States contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Thimerosal consists of 49.6% ethyl mercury, an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal that allows manufacturers to sell the vaccine in large, multi-dose containers without fear of contamination.