In the third week of January 2018, over 4,000 Americans died from influenza or related pneumonia. This flu season has been particularly bad. Flu vaccines aren't perfect, or without (minor) health risks. They contain many chemical ingredients as well as inactivated influenza viruses. They are a simple seat-belt I think we ought to be wearing in greater numbers. I continue to be appalled at the high levels of mis/disinformation floating around, as well as the low levels of science education and critical thinking. Those are some of my motivations in starting this blog. I love me some critical thinking!

Just a Little Case of the Flu

Influenza is a disease that many of us take for granted, despite it being the deadliest infectious disease in the United States. Many people confuse it with the "stomach flu" that makes you throw up and have diarrhea for a day or so, but that is a completely different disease (gastroenteritis). Actual influenza affects the respiratory system and can lead to fever, pneumonia, respiratory failure and death. The influenza outbreak in 1918-1920 killed an estimated 50-100 million people: almost five percent of the world's population. Thanks to vaccination, we no longer have such devastating pandemics. Young infants, persons with compromised immune systems, and various others cannot safely receive flu shots, and so they rely on a large percentage of the rest of us getting vaccinated to help stop the spread. The risk of minor side effects from a flu shot are far, far smaller than the risk of death by influenza.

A Rarely Mentioned Toxic Chemical in the Flu Shot: Oxidane

If you're worried about mercury or formaldehyde in the flu shot, you should be a thousand times more worried about oxidane. Prolonged exposure to solid oxidane can cause severe tissue damage. Oxidane in gaseous form can cause severe burns to the skin. Inhalation of oxidane can cause respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. Ingestion of too much oxidane can cause oxidane toxemia, brain damage and death. What exactly is oxidane, you ask? Oxidane is another name for water. Tasty, tasty water. People get worried about chemical names, are generally too lazy to do research, and don't stop to remember that our bodies are 100% chemicals.

Yes, some chemicals are toxic to us at certain dosage levels, and some aren't. The dosage makes the poison, so to speak. People also tend to gloss over chemical names that are similar. We all drink ethyl alcohol (beer, wine, etc), but methyl alcohol is highly toxic and used as antifreeze. One little letter difference between chemical names can mean a large difference in the chemicals' effects on the human body. An example of this can be found a bit later when I talk about Thimerosal.

Ah, Facebook... AKA Misinformation Central

I saw a friend post the following image on Facebook:

This little orange piece of paper makes several claims, though almost none of them are accurate. So, I thought I'd provide a little light Saturday morning reading material by addressing these false claims, one by one. Yes, I'm a nerd, but you knew that! I'll give links to scientific studies as much as I can, for those interested in reading more details. As always, do your own research! Don't accept any claims blindly, including my claims here!

Alzheimer's Disease - The claim that exposure to flu shots increases risk of Alzheimer's is not backed up by any good evidence. In fact, there are studies indicating that the opposite may be true, that exposure to various vaccines may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.

Thimerosal - Today, Thimerosal is only present in flu shots that come from multi-use vials, so most of us will receive a flu shot without any Thimerosal. Thimerosal is a preservative containing ethylmercury. Ethylmercury is quite different from methylmercury. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin and is found in fish. Eat too much fish high in methylmercury and it can build up in the human brain, causing various health problems. Ethylmercury, on the other hand, is a much larger molecule that can't actually pass into the brain, and the human body flushes it out rather quickly. Thimerosal itself is pretty extensively studied and found to be quite safe at the dosage levels found in multi-use vials of flu vaccine.

Aluminum - this is present in many vaccines in order to elicit a stronger immune response, in turn helping the vaccine be more effective. Aluminum is the most common metal found in the Earth's crust. An infant getting a typical set of vaccines in their first 6 months of life would receive about 4 milligrams of aluminum from the set of vaccines. In the same 6 months, they would receive 10 milligrams of aluminum from breast milk, 40 milligrams from formula, or 120 milligrams from soy-based formula. Aluminum is naturally present almost everywhere, in our drinking water and foods. Adults consume on average about 24 milligrams per day just from normal foods. The tiny amount in a vaccine is nothing to worry about.

Formaldehyde - this is used in vaccines to kill the virus so that it doesn't cause disease. Formaldehyde is naturally present in fruits and vegetables, and is even naturally produced in the human body. In large doses, formaldehyde is quite dangerous and deadly. However, in vaccines the amount is so small (5-25 micrograms) that it isn't a concern. Compare that amount to a single pear which contains about 8600-13200 micrograms of formaldehyde. So, if someone is worried about formaldehyde in a vaccine, they should be roughly 1400 times more concerned about eating a single pear.

Ethylene Glycol (misspelled as "Blycol") - this is a moderately toxic chemical used in making antifreeze. However, vaccines don't contain this compound, they contain polyethylene glycol. Polyethylene glycol is also used in toothpastes, skin creams, personal lubricants, and some foods. It is considered safe and has no known ill effects in the body. It is used in various over the counter treatments for constipation, and in much larger doses than those found in vaccines.

Phenol - this preservative isn't actually present in flu shots, but is present in a few other vaccines, so I'll still give my notes on it here. It is also used in throat sprays, lozenges and mouthwashes. In vaccines, preservatives like this serve to keep the vaccine from being contaminated by bacteria. A different chemical, octylphenol ethoxylate, is used in many flu vaccines. It is a detergent and is used to break the virus apart in order to ensure it isn't likely to cause side effects.

Benzethonium Chloride (misspelled as "Bensethonium") - this is an antimicrobial agent and disinfectant used in first-aid antiseptics, cosmetics, mouthwashes, ointments, and moist towelettes. It's actually not present in flu shots, but is used in one vaccine called BioThrax (for preventing a separate bacterial disease).

Methylparaben - this is a preservative, and is produced naturally by some insects. It is not present in the flu shot. It is however present in medications like Tylenol Gelcaps, cosmetics, personal care products and foods.

Oxidane - The flu shot consists mostly of pure oxidane, the chemical term for water.

Well, that's a lot of text for a Saturday morning...if you read this far, good for you, and please let me know what kind of coffee you drink. I can only hope this post helps open a few eyes and convince a few more people to consider getting flu shots for themselves and their children.

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I hardly ever drink coffee. I like iced tea.
Written on Mon, 19 Feb 2018 12:09:11 by Jeff
Nice summary
Written on Sun, 18 Feb 2018 10:26:48 by Myron Harris

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