Preservatives are added to vaccines to prevent fungal or bacterial contamination.


‘Thiomersal’ has been added to vaccines as a preservative since the 1930’s. It is 50% mercury by weight and there is concern about the exposure to mercury that children have through thiomersal containing vaccines.

“Severe reactions to thiomersal have been reported for many years and demonstrate the need for an alternative preservative.”44

  • Manufacturers have been asked to remove mercury from vaccines and some states in America have banned all thiomersal containing vaccines; though this has been over-ridden with the influenza vaccine recommendations.
  • Reports from independent analysers have shown that despite reassurances, mercury is still used in vaccine production and cannot be completely filtered out.45
  • Thiomersal is still in adult diphtheria/ tetanus (ADT), Influenza, Q fever, Japanese Encephalitis and some Hepatitis B, Meningococcal and Haemophilus influenza
    B (Hib) vaccines.

The El Lilly Company Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) for Thimerosal cautions that if it enters through the skin (absorption not by injection) it is toxic, can alter
genetic material, and cause allergic reactions and lung tissue changes. Exposure in utero (in the womb) and in children may cause mild to severe mental retardation and mild to severe motor coordination impairment. (Influenza vaccines are recommended for pregnant women in the second or third trimester)

  • A study that compared pre and post vaccination mercury levels “showed a significant increase in both preterm and term infants after vaccination”. It concluded that, “Because mercury is known to be a potential neurotoxin to infants, further study of its pharmacodynamics (what it does in the body) is warranted.”46
  • The neurotoxic effects of mercury can include cerebral palsy, hearing loss, visual impairment, ataxia (loss of muscle co-ordination) and mental retardation.47
  • In re-analysing important data, the Journal of Child Neurology reported in 2007 that in fact “a significant relation does exist between the blood levels of mercury and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder”, suggesting also that persons with autism may be less efficient and more variable at eliminating mercury from the blood.48
  • Autism-like damage has occurred in the brains of mice exposed to thiomersal. The mice were bred to be vulnerable to disorders of the immune system and researchers argued that it was possible that children with similarly compromised immune systems may also be at risk.49
  • Mercury compounds are triggers for severe skin and other allergies.50

We know that mercury is easily able to cross the placenta and the blood-brain barrier and can affect the rapidly developing brain tissue of babies in the womb and after they are born.51 The blood-brain barrier is not intact in infants until at least 6 weeks of life.

Phenoxyethanol /Phenol

Added in place of thiomersal as a preservative in DTP, Hepatitis A and B, IPV (polio), Pneumococcal and combination vaccines, phenol is known to be toxic to all cells,
including immune system cells. Vitamin K, given at birth by injection or orally, contains phenol.

  • It is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. It can disable the immune system’s primary response mechanism, acting to inhibit phagocyte activity. Phagocytes have the job of ingesting bacteria, protozoa and foreign bodies in the blood.
  • Phenol exposure is reported to cause systemic poisoning, headache, shock, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, convulsions, kidney damage and failure, liver damage, irregular heartbeat, cardiac failure, respiratory irritation and death.
  •  Phenoxyethanol contains ethylene oxide, which is an irritant that can cause dermatitis, burns, blisters, and eczema. Generalised eczema was reported in an 18-month-old boy due to phenoxyethanol in DPT vaccine.52

44 Cox and Forsyth, Thiomersal allergy and vaccination reactions, Contact Dermatitis1988;18:229-233
45 Health Advocacy in the Public Interest (HAPI) Report, 12/8/2004
46 Stajicj et al, Journal of Paediatrics May 2000;136(5):571-3 46 Stajicj et al, Journal of Paediatrics May 2000;136(5):571-3
47 Clarkson, TW, Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci 1997 August;34(4):369-403
48 DeSoto et al, Blood Levels of Mercury Are Related to Diagnosis of Autism: A Reanalysis of an Important Data Set, J Child Neurology, 2007; 22(11):1308-1311
49 Hornig, M, Molecular Psychiatry 2004;9:833-845
50 Patrizi, A et al, Contact Dermatitis 1999 Feb;40(2):94-97
51 Clarkson, TW, Environ Health Perspective 1993April;100:31-38
52 Contact Dermatitis 1998 Jan;38(1):50-1

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