Toxic Pollution and the Swine Flu Vaccine

Young children spread the flu (and lots of other stuff) so will likely be a major vector in the spread of swine flu (H1N1). But according to the Centers for Disease Control, fewer than 45 percent of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are usually vaccinated against influenza. “But, why?” you ask. Why is this post in the Environment & Wildlife causes blog at Care2?  Because one of the concerns is mercury. Because environmentally conscious parents work to keep toxins out of their children’s water, food, and home and many are uncomfortable injecting even small amounts of this toxic heavy metal into their children’s bloodstreams.

Mercury in the Environment
When the heavy metal mercury is released into the environment – mostly from digging up and burning coal, but there are few other sources as well – it contaminates rivers, streams, and ocean waters where it is converted into an organic form of the metal – methyl mercury. Methyl mercury then accumulates in fish and wildlife and eventually people.

Mercury is a poison that targets the nervous system. This is of special concern for children (and therefore pregnant women) because mercury can permanently damage a developing brain. To prevent mercury building up to toxic levels in the body, EPA recommends keeping exposure under 0.1 mcg per kilogram of body weight. For most people, this means being careful not to eat too much fish too high in mercury (which is very upsetting for the tuna industry but good for recovering the swordfish population).

Mercury in the Flu Vaccine
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, concerns that ethyl mercury in the many vaccines commonly administered before the age of two would bring infants above the EPA threshold encouraged the vaccine industry to eliminate the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal from all vaccines given to children younger than six years old. Mercury-preservatives are still used in vaccines given to adults, including all multi-dose vial preparations of the flu vaccine.

There are four manufacturers of the H1N1 vaccines that will be available in the United States – three for injected vaccines and one for a nasal mist vaccine. The injectable vaccines are available either in single dose vials or pre-filled syringes, which are mercury-free, or a 10 dose vial, which contains about 25 mcg of mercury per full dose.  The nasal mist is mercury-free.

However of the mercury-free options, only the Sanofi Pasteur single-dose and 1/2-dose preparations is approved for infants and toddlers. The Novartis single-dose preparation is approved for kids four years and older. The CSL single-dose preparation is only approved for adults. So, parents of babies and toddlers looking for mercury-free vaccines will only have the one choice.

To Worry or Not to Worry about Mercury in the Flu Vaccine
The World Health Organization has concluded that use of thimerosal is acceptable in vaccines. The organization feels that risk is unproven and the benefit of using the preservative, which allows manufacture of multi-dose vials essential in the developing world, outweighs a theoretical risk of mercury in the vaccine. But for those of us with the luxury of obtaining a mercury-free, single-dose vaccine, should we?

The ethyl mercury used in vaccines is different from the methyl mercury found in fish in that it is excreted from the body much faster, usually in less than a week, so it doesn’t build up to toxic levels as easily. Unfortunately, the National Institutes of Health fact sheet on the safety of thimerosal was disappointingly unspecific on why thimerosal is safe.

Note that to protect against both the seasonal flu and H1N1, you need two vaccines.

Dr. Robert Sears, author of The Vaccine Book, recommends that pregnant women and children under three skip the flu vaccine unless they can get the single-dose, mercury-free injection or the nasal mist (not for preganant women).

Practicality of the Flu Vaccine for Children
Anyone under 10 getting vaccinated for the first time is supposed to get two doses spaced a month apart (If your child missed a dose the first time they were vaccinated, they need two doses this time). If you are vaccinating for both seasonal flu and H1N1, is that four doses over four months? That’s Dr. Sears’s recommendation anyway.

A query on my moms list serv elicited a response from a Department of Health and Human Services staff person (I live on Capitol Hill; it’s a connected group of moms.) who assured me that both the seasonal flu and H1N1 could be administered together, provided I can find the two from the same provider.

Update from that listserv post: Since posting to my neighborhood parents’ e-mail list, a few moms have posted stories of their own experiences with the swine flu.  It has already hit our neighborhood and those neighbors who’ve had it are reporting that it made their families sicker than anything in recent memory – parents and kids.  Not fun and not something to take lightly.  Don’t miss Jessica’s personal account here on Care2.

So bottom line?
I don’t know what I’m doing, yet. According to the New York Times, I’m not alone: only 40 to 51 percent of patients surveyed by the Harvard School of Public Health are definitely planning to get the vaccine.

What about you?

Read more about H1N1 innoculations:


Swine Flu Vaccine: What to DO?

H1N1 Vaccine – Tested In Animals First

Safety Concerns Swirl Around H1N1 Vaccine



Keep Swine Flu Out Of Your House

Swine Flu Symptoms & Prevention

Swine Flu:  The Single Best Way to Prevent Illness

Swine Flu Parties

Swine Flu: Can Cinnamon Fight It?



My Life With Swine Flu 

H1N1 A Challenge For Working Mothers

Toxic Pollution And The Swine Flu Vaccine

The Experts: Swine Flu (H1N1) Experts And Bill Maher On The Vaccine And Managing Your Risk

H1N1 And Your Pets (Really!)


Flu shot image by Flickr user alvi2047 / CC BY 2.0


Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Casey Broughton
Casey Broughton8 years ago

I too struggle with whether or not to get vaccinated. I generally have a problem with vaccines. I did get the HINI vaccine because my parents specifically requested that I do so because they were worried. I definitely value truthful information about them and I know you can't get that from doctors and scientists alone because of their extreme bias.

joseph f.
joe f8 years ago

Holly - More power to you girl! Yes! Stand your ground. Check out this site -

Michael C. - With all due respect, do you believe everything the government or media tells you? If not, then why is the H1N1 any different? I suggest getting an several alternate news sources outside the US, and that also goes for US government health sites (aka CDC) and all corporate run, private pharmaceuticaly funded/endorsed media (tough to find good free press these days). The bottom line is.... MONEY! Shocker : ) The H1N1 vaccine (as well as other flu vaccinations) poses more harm than assistance in 'most' if not all cases. I have to question any 'healthy' persons sanity who blindly get the shot/mist, AND anyone who wants to inject their children with the horrible chemicals. - For peace and justice - joe

Holly W.
Holly W.8 years ago

I work in a nursing home in Wisconsin and they are telling all employees that it is mandatory to get the flu AND the swine flu vaccine. I have refused and the only way out of it for me would be a note from my physician that says I am allergic, which I am not. I do not take medicine, am extremely healthy because of that. My immune system is strong and the last time I checked, It would be a violation of my civil rights for them to force me into this. Any advice? I am not sure of the punishment if I keep refusing....should I stand my ground?

Michael C.
Michael C8 years ago

wow Christine are you kidding? like i said, you have no idea how the vaccines are made or how they work. you can't even get basic facts right. if you got that info from docs or scientists i hope they got their money back from whatever poor school they went to.

believe me when i say the news is the last place that i learn about the vaccines.

as for the numbers that Evelyn needs (and please note there is a difference between pediatric and infant. i wrote pediatric):
"To date, swine flu has hospitalized hundreds of thousands of people around the world and killed at least 4,500, including at least 600 in the United States. At least 81 U.S. children have died, including many who had no underlying health problems" -AP article 15OCT09

on average 50-60 children die in the US from the flu each year. please note that we have far surpassed that number and we are not even into flu season yet

"H1N1 Deaths Among Youths Rise as Epidemic Spreads"-Washington Post, 10OCT09

from that article: "The number of children who have died from swine flu has jumped sharply as the virus continues to spread widely around the United States, striking youngsters, teenagers, young adults and pregnant women unusually often"

Christine T.
Christine T8 years ago

Michael C out of all due respect I'm sorry to tell you that I got my informations from scientists, doctors, pharmatologists and micro-biologists whom gladly speak out to warn us of THE DANGERS of the vaccine.

All come to the same conclusion: deaths were caused by previous flu vaccines given in the past year. All say that the humain body cannot fight a virus if it is injected with THE LIVE VIRUS, the virus has to be an INACTIVE VIRUS which takes more than a few months to call it safe and maybe effective. And adding mercury to the vaccines is very wrong, it has no means to be there as a preservative. Another debate among the scientist.

It's important to reseach beyond what you hear on the news. The media is probably the place where you will hear propagandas about the H1N1 and the number of deaths.

Before they can vaccinate just about anybody, they have to know your level of anti-bodies, if someone has a low pathogenic systeme the vaccine will be very virulent and cause premature death or health problems.

The swine flu contamination period is not of 7 days but of 10 days. People have been wrongly informed, and will be for as long as people get their information from on the news.

Helping one another is much better than fighting against one another.