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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Mercury in Vaccines Leaves Blood Fast

Study Shows Ethyl Mercury in Thimerosal Leaves Blood Quickly


"Just because it came out of the blood doesn't mean it is excreted from the body. It could have gone to the brain," Burbacher tells WebMD. "Although total mercury levels in the blood are lower following thimerosal exposure [than following methyl mercury exposure], mercury in the blood from thimerosal has an easier time getting to the brain than methyl mercury."

Pichichero agrees with Burbacher on this but he says the current findings are relevant to thimerosal risk.

"There is a direct relationship between the amount of mercury in the blood -- and how long it stays in the blood -- and the ability of mercury to get into the brain to produce developmental problems," he says. "We did not prove there was not deposition of mercury in other parts of the body, but we prove that the half-life of ethyl mercury from thimerosal is low, excretion is high, and the kidneys -- an organ very sensitive to the effects of mercury -- were not damaged."

Sallie Bernard is co-founder and executive director of SafeMinds, an organization that advocates "sensible action for ending mercury-induced neurological disorders."

Bernard says the Pichichero study is valuable because it makes it clear that the body handles ethyl mercury very differently from the way it handles methyl mercury.

"That is why we need real safety studies to look at the effects of ethyl mercury," Bernard tells WebMD. "We need not look at blood levels and excretion times, but at what goes on in the brain and what any ethyl mercury-induced changes in the brain are doing to children."

The Pichichero study appears in the February online edition of the journal Pediatrics.

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