Tag Archive for 'mercury'

Weekly Highlights (2/6/2012)

We hope you had a wonderful weekend! Welcome to this week’s highlights, our weekly post that recaps important child health and safety news, research, and recalls from the previous week and other great finds we’ve come across in our internet travels. Enjoy! - Jasmine & Heather

In the News:

Pfizer Recalls 1 Million Birth Control Pills - In case you missed our notice on Facebook earlier this week, Pfizer recalled 1 million pills due to a packaging mishap. Check the article to see if your pill was affected.

Home Birth Advocate Dies in Child Birth - A home birth advocate passed away after going into cardiac arrest during childbirth bringing into question the safety of home births as their popularity rises. I found this article a really refreshing take on home vs hospital births.

Qantas Flight Grounded by Dirty DiaperYes, you read that right. A plane was forced to land and passengers removed by forklift 5 at a time due to a foul odor coming from a dirty diaper stuffed in the airplane toilet.

Senator Wants More Done to Warn of Mercury Hazard in New Light Bulbs - Nebraskan Senator Hulton is concerned that most people aren’t aware of the hazards of compact fluorescent light bulbs in the home. Read the article for info on how to properly handle and dispose of these mercury-containing light bulbs.

New Research:

Why Spanking Doesn’t Work
A new analysis of two decades of research on the long-term effects of physical punishment finds that it doesn’t work and can have serious long-term effects.  While it may work in the moment, it leads to increased aggression in children in the longer term and can harm the relationship between parent and child as well as affect a child’s sense of self-worth. Later in life, it’s associated with mental health problems as neurological analysis has found that it can affect brain chemistry.

Parents Cheat on Booster Seats, Despite Safety Risks
A new survey in this week’s Pediatrics found that more than half of parents carpool children other than their own, but they don’t always use booster seats for children who should be in one. Only about half of parents who carpool require their own child to ride in a booster, even when their friends are not. And 21 percent would allow their child to ride boosterless in someone else’s car.

Breastfeeding Tied to Stronger Lungs, Less Asthma
Two new studies out this week on the effect of breastfeeding on lung function: The first followed 1500 UK children from their birth in the mid-1990s and tested for lung function and allergies between the ages of 8 and 14. Two out of the three tests showed that babies who were breastfed by asthmatic moms for at least four months may get more benefit from breastfeeding than babies of asthma-free moms, countering previous studies which suggested asthmatic moms may put their babies at risk with breastfeeding. The second study followed 1000 children in New Zealand and concluded that each month of exclusive breastfeeding was tied to a 9% drop in asthma risk.

Good Reads:

Medical Mysteries: It Wasn’t the Vaccine – So Why Did Baby Have Seizures? from The Washington Post - A fascinating read on one family’s search for an explanation after her baby developed seizures following vaccination.

After Recess: Change the World from The New York TimesAn inspirational column on how change.org has changed the landscape for effecting change.

Word! from An Inch of GrayTouching words on coping with grief and what almost was before the tragic loss of her child in the floods of VA last year. Pray for those who have loved and lost that they will be comforted through such grief and pain.

Recalls, January 31 – February 6:

CPSC Child Product Recalls

Child Safety Seat Recalls

No child safety seat recall announcements this week.

USDA/FDA Recalls

A number of recalls below are driven by the recall of hard-cooked eggs produced by Michael Foods which have been sold to retail/institutional establishments and may be contaminated with listeria. Be cautious purchasing products containing hard-cooked eggs.

If there’s anything you see and think we should feature, please send it to jasmine@purebebe.com.

Weekly Highlights (1/23/2012)

I hope you had a wonderful weekend! My apologies for missing the highlights last week. January is a hectic month for me, so after work and family there hasn’t been much time left over. Because we missed last week, you’ll see a little more in this week’s highlights, our weekly post that recaps important child health and safety news, research, and recalls from the previous week and other great finds we’ve come across in our internet travels.


In the News:

Mom Claims in Viral Blog That Disabled Child Denied TransplantGiven patient confidentiality laws, it’s not possible to have the whole story, but I sincerely hope this child is able to get the kidney she will need. Heartbreaking.

FDA Halts Imports of Orange Juice: Is It Safe to Drink? - The FDA has halted all imports of orange juice after The Coca Cola Company, maker of Minute Maid and Simply Orange, notified that some Brazilian growers had sprayed their trees with a fungicide that is illegal in the U.S. The FDA is not issuing a recall citing no safety concerns over consumption at low levels, but they are now inspecting all imported juices.

A Specialists’ Debate on Autism Has Many Worried Observers - The standard reference manual for mental disorders is under revision, and many are worried that changes in the definition of autism, aspergers, and other disorders may limit or take away services available to those who currently qualify.

Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Ban on Flame Retardants in Baby Products  Citing a new report which found flame retardants in 17 of 20 baby products, Connecticut lawmakers consider ban.

LEGO Petitioned to Stop Gender-Based Marketing - After LEGO introduced a girlified version of LEGOs for girls featuring taller, skinnier, more accessory-friendly characters, backlash ensues with a petition to end gender-based marketing. My girls happily play with the standard LEGOs, as I’m sure do many others. This is the last thing our girls need. Sign the petition, if you like, here. The petition has reached almost 50,000.

New Research:

Babies Learn to Talk by Reading Lips
Ever noticed your baby studying your mouth when you speak? New research suggests that babies’ attention focuses on the mouth between about 6-12 months as they turn their attention to speech development in order to learn how to shape their lips and form sounds. Around the age of 1, their gaze comes back to the eyes, unless they are learning a foreign language in which case they will continue to focus on the mouth. Fascinating!

Parabens Found in 99% of Breast Cancer Tumors
A study of breast cancer tissue samples taken from 40 women undergoing mastectomies between 2005 and 2008 in England found that 99% of the samples contained at least one paraben and 60% of samples contained five. The study does not draw conclusions about cause and effect but does highlight the need for further study.

Plasticizer (Phthalate) Increases Miscarriage Risk
In the first study to examine phthalate exposure and miscarriage in humans, scientists in Denmark found that women exposed near the time of conception to relatively common levels of a particular phthalate are more likely to experience early miscarriage compared to women with lower exposures. Only exposures around conception, and not in the prior month, were linked to miscarriage. Couples attempting to get pregnant between 1992 and 1994 contributed urine samples, and scientists tested samples taken shortly before ovulation for phthalate levels and after ovulation for confirmed pregnancies and losses. The samples were tested in 2009?? Regardless, further research is necessary to confirm the conclusions, but animal/rodent studies have shown similar associations.

Eating Mercury-Tainted Fish Affects Stress Hormones in Children
A new study of 100 children, aged 9 to 11, found that higher mercury levels in the children’s blood was significantly associated with lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is released in response to stress and is important for metabolism, immune responses, and blood pressure. Lower cortisol levels and responses can contribute to chronic stress. The children’s fish eating habits were monitored, and the fish eaters had almost three times higher the level of mercury of the non-fish eaters. Consider this guide to fish and mercury levels from the Natural Resources Defense Council for limiting your child’s mercury consumption.

Fantastic Finds:

Baby Sleep Positions from Howtobeadad.com – Too funny. Booby trap, H is for Hell, and Snow Angels are familiar territory in our home. How about you?

Friendly Fire from Momastery.com - I can’t get enough of Glennon Melton. She is one amazing woman, and I wish I could shout this message from the rooftops. Every woman should read this!

The Never Before Told, Super Secret Ingredient for Raising an Amazing Daughter from Lisa Kaplin at BuffaloGrovePatch - Be the woman you want your daughter to be. Well said.

Recalls, January 10 – January 22:

CPSC Child Product Recalls

Child Safety Seat Recalls

No child safety seat recall announcements this week.

USDA/FDA Recalls

If there’s anything you see and think we should feature, please send it our way to jasmine@purebebe.com. We hope your week is off to a great start!

XOXO, Jasmine & Heather

Weekly Highlights (12/26/2011)

We hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Welcome to “Weekly Highlights”, our weekly post that recaps important child health and safety news, research, and recalls from the previous week and other great finds we’ve come across in our internet travels.

In the News:

Mead Johnson Retests Samples of Enfamil and Reaffirms Safety - The company completed a second round of testing on samples of its Enfamil Newborn formula from the batch under recall. The tests showed no signs of the bacteria, but tests results from federal health officials will not be in until later this week. Check enfamilalerts.com or our sidebar for updates.

Two Strengths of Infant Acetaminophen Boost Confusion, Risk - Old and new infant formulations are currently on shelves with some even mislabeled. Be sure to check the concentration and dosage amounts, particularly for infants under 2.

EPA Issues Historic Regulations on Air Pollution - New rules issued this week by the EPA, overdue by about 20 years, will dramatically reduce mercury levels as well as other toxins from coal power plants, resulting in a significant reduction in premature births, childhood asthma, bronchitis, and other related illnesses, the EPA estimates.

Retailer Blames China Suppliers as More Jewelry Recalled- Health Canada’s recall blitz this week caught jewelry imported from China with levels of lead up to 86% and cadmium up to 46%.

New Research:

Studies Suggest an Acetaminophen-Asthma Link
Evidence is mounting of a possible link between acetaminophen use in infants and the development of childhood asthma. One study in 2008 found that children under 1 who had taken acetaminophen for a fever had a 50% greater risk of developing asthma symptoms. A single dose can reduce the body’s levels of a peptide that helps prevent inflammation in the airways. Yet, researchers still say it is difficult to determine whether the acetaminophen or the infection are to blame. The doctor quoted in the article suggests reserving acetaminophen only for very high fevers and major pain relief.

How Toddlers Hear Themselves
Ever wonder why toddlers can’t seem to pronounce certain words just right? 2 year olds do not listen to themselves and self-correct like adults do. They focus on the content of what they are saying rather than how they say it, which is why when you repeat back to a child what you think they said (pronounced correctly) they will say “yes”. Starting around age 3, children begin to develop the ability to repair conversations. Be a good speech model and focus on what your children are saying rather than correcting how they say it.

Fantastic Finds:

How to Get Your Favorite Fruits in the Winter from CNN Health - A guide to the choosing the tastiest and healthiest fruits in the winter.

Riley on Marketing from YouTube - One little girl expresses her frustration at gender-biased marketing. High five!

Recalls, December 20 – December 26:

CPSC Child Product Recalls

Child Safety Seat Recalls

No child safety seat recall announcements this week.

USDA/FDA Recalls

If there’s anything you see and think we should feature, please send it our way to jasmine@purebebe.com. We hope your week is off to a great start!

Jasmine & Heather

What is in Your Child’s Flu Vaccine for 2010-11

The health decisions we make for our children are intensely personal, and I know many parents question whether the flu vaccine is safe for their children as concerns have been raised about a variety of ingredients, identified as potential toxins, included in the vaccine. I’ve spent a significant amount of time researching the 2010-2011 influenza vaccine and  would like to share that with you now.

In order to understand what is ultimately in the end product, I find it helpful to first understand the vaccine and how it is made.

The Flu Vaccine – How it is Made

Flu Strain Selection Process

Every year, the creation of the flu vaccine starts with strain selection by the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network. The network is made up of about 135 laboratories in 105 countries which collect samples of circulating influenza viruses and submit them to 4 WHO flu research centers for review.

Twice a year, the WHO organizes a consultation with the directors of these centers and representatives from key laboratories (Australia, UK, and US) to make a determination about which three strains it expects will be prevalent in the coming year and should be recommended for inclusion in the year’s vaccine. The decision for the Northern Hemisphere is made in February and for the Southern Hemisphere in September.

Three viruses are chosen to maximize the likelihood that the circulating viruses will be covered by the vaccine. Once the WHO has made its recommendation, each country makes their own decision for licensing of vaccines in their country. In the US, the FDA determines which viruses will be used in US-licensed vaccines.

Meanwhile, the viruses are adapted for use in manufacturing, and reference strains are then distributed by the WHO to vaccine manufacturers. The manufacturers then grow strains of the virus which are tested for potency and safety. This year, the three viruses are the 2009 H1N1 virus, the H3N2 virus, and an influenza B virus.

2010-11 Vaccines and Licensed Manufacturers

For the 2010-11 season, 8 flu vaccines have been licensed for distribution in the U.S. Not all flu vaccines are alike. While each goes through a similar manufacturing process, each does not use the same ingredients and does not necessarily have the same efficacy among different age groups.

As a result, different vaccines are approved for different age groups. They do all, however, carry the same viral strains in the same concentration. The list below has been adapted from the vaccine inserts provided by each manufacturer for the current season’s vaccines. You can click on each vaccine name for a link to the insert.

Important Note: CSL’s Afluria has been approved in the U.S. for people 6 months and up; however, its Southern Hemisphere variant of the vaccine has resulted in fever and febrile seizures in young children in Australia, primarily those under the age of 5.

The problem appears to be isolated to the Southern Hemisphere vaccine, however, ACIP (the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) has recommended that the Northern Hemisphere variant not be given to children under 9 years old. If no other option is available, however, providers have been advised to discuss the benefits and risks with parents. So I suggest it would be a good idea to confirm which vaccine your child is receiving.

Growth of the Virus

The vaccine is produced using fertilized hen’s eggs. According to the WHO, for most influenza vaccine production, the virus is injected into the amniotic cavity of nine to twelve day old fertilized eggs which are then incubated for two to three days while the virus multiplies.

The amniotic cavity provides a sterile, nutrient-rich environment for the growth of the virus which is then recovered by removing the amniotic fluid from the egg. Antibiotics are used in this stage to prevent bacterial growth and improve yields.

The yield of inactivated flu vaccine can range from 3-4 doses per egg, depending on the strain. I think we’re all keenly aware of the limitations of this process after last year’s H1N1 vaccine shortages. Manufacturers are looking into novel ways to grow the virus in the future.

Note: For the 2010-2011 season, Sanofi Pasteur’s Fluzone and GlaxoSmithKline’s FluLaval do not use antibiotics in the manufacturing process.

Purification and Inactivation of the Virus

After harvesting the virus containing fluids from the egg, the virus is purified (separated) and concentrated using centrifugation (rotation at high speeds to separate particles of varying density). This process uses a sucrose solution containing detergent to disrupt the viruses and separate the surface antigens from the internal proteins.

The virus is then inactivated, generally using formaldehyde or betapropiolactone, and in some cases further purified/concentrated. The Sanofi Pasteur vaccine, on the other hand, inactivates the virus before purification. And FluMist, as you know, is a live vaccine and so it is not inactivated.

Formulation and Testing of the Virus

The 3 purified strains are combined and suspended in a buffered saline solution, “buffered” meaning that it is resistant to changes in pH in order to maintain the virus and to not alter the pH of the recipient’s blood after injection.

The combined virus is then tested by the manufacturer and the FDA to ensure the proper amount of virus and then released for distribution. It is packaged in either pre-filled single-dose syringes, multi-dose vials or, in the case of Flu Mist, nasal sprayers.

Thimerosal is added to multi-dose vials as a preservative to prevent contamination when multiple doses are drawn from the same vial. Each lot is sealed, inspected, labeled, and then formally released by the FDA.

So What’s in the End Product?

I’ve prepared a 2010-11 U.S. Flu Vaccine Information Chart from the package inserts of each vaccine which identifies the ingredients according to their purpose and lists the amounts remaining in the end product.

Ultimately, the vaccine contains the virus suspended in a saline solution, with trace amounts of the egg proteins, antibiotics, detergents, and inactivating agents used during the creation of the vaccine.


Because antibiotics such as penicillin can result in severe allergic reactions in children sensitive to them, some parents are concerned about possible adverse reactions but the types of antibiotics more likely to cause such reactions are not included in vaccines. The antibiotics that are used are reduced to very small amounts through the subsequent purification steps.


Detergents used in the production of the flu vaccine include octylphenol ethoxylate (TRITON X-100) and polysorbate 80.

Another name for octylphenol ethoxylate is polyethylene glycol which is sometimes confused with ethylene glycol, a compound widely used in automotive antifreeze. The two are related, but they have very different effects on the human body. Polyethylene glycol is a much larger molecule than ethylene glycol, not easily absorbed by the body. Polyethylene glycol is actually considered to have a low toxicity and is often used in a variety of products such as laxatives, skin creams, toothpaste, and lubricants.

Polysorbate 80  is not just used in vaccines but is also in our foods. It is used as an emulsifier, particularly in ice cream to make it smoother and easier to handle and increase its resistance to melting. One study of the possible effects of polysorbate 80 concluded that when baby female rats were injected with the chemical, it caused early maturation and changes in their reproductive organs, leading to claims of infertility.

However, Dr. David Gorski of www.sciencebasedmedicine.org highlights the fact that this study used levels of the chemical at incredibly high proportions to the rat’s body weight, much higher than levels we consume on a daily basis in food (approx .1g) which in turn is much greater than levels found in the flu vaccine (.415mg). In addition, a number of other similar studies concluded the exact opposite – that the chemical did not result in any abnormal changes.

Inactivating Agents

Formaldehyde is the inactivating agent that gets the most attention. It is a colorless, flammable chemical with a strong smell that can cause a burning sensation to the eyes, nose, and lungs at high concentrations. It has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and a probable human carcinogen by the EPA.

A number of studies have demonstrated the link between exposure and cancer, primarily of the nose and throat. It seems the danger is in prolonged direct contact through the air or consumption in extremely high concentrations. It can be found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the carpet and furniture in our homes, but is also naturally occurring in our own bodies.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Toxicology Profile on Formaldehyde, it is produced in small amounts by most living organisms as part of our normal metabolic processes and, in that respect, causes us no harm.  DHHS also says that it is easily absorbed when we breathe it in or eat/drink it, and once absorbed it breaks down very quickly and there are a number of ways our bodies can get rid of it or use it.

Almost every tissue in the body has the ability to break it down, and it is usually converted to a non-toxic chemical called formate, which is then excreted in the urine. It can also be converted to carbon dioxide and breathed out. Or it can be broken down so our bodies can use it to make larger molecules needed in our tissues.

An article published by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says that humans have about 2.5 mcg of natural formaldehyde per ml of blood, which for an average weight 2-month-old infant translates to about 1.1mg of formaldehyde, a value at least five times greater than that to which an infant would be exposed in vaccines. The article also goes on to say that quantities of formaldehyde at least 600 times greater than that contained in vaccines has been given safely to animals.


Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative, 49.6% mercury by weight, which has been the primary cause of many parents’ concern because mercury can affect brain development and the nervous system.

Because of these concerns, policy makers in the United States took steps in 1999 to reduce infant exposure to thimerosal by recommending that it be reduced to trace amounts or eliminated from infant vaccines altogether.  All routine vaccinations for children 6 and under now contain no or trace amounts of thimerosal, except for the influenza vaccine.

It’s important to distinguish, though, between ethylmercury and methylmercury. Thimerosal breaks down into ethylmercury, a related but distant chemical from methylmercury.  At the time that the policy decision was made, not much was known about ethylmercury so decisions were made based on what we knew about methylmercury, which was well established as a neurotoxin that accumulates in the food chain and subsequently in our bodies when we consume foods containing it.

It distributes easily throughout the body, including the brain and is eliminated very slowly thus building up with prolonged/repeated exposure. Methylmercury poisoning has resulted in neurological damage and death. Ethylmercury, on the other hand, has since been studied and we have learned that, while ethylmercury distributes through the body just as easily, it is eliminated from the body much more quickly.

In fact, in a study of healthy infants, pre and post vaccination blood and stool samples were taken from newborns, 2- and 6- month old infants and it was determined that ethylmercury did not appear to accumulate, that the half-life of mercury from the blood was approximately 3.7 days, and that ethylmercury was much more rapidly excreted than methylmercury.

Another major concern over thimerosal takes things a step further with suggested links to autism, but this theory has, as of late, received a lot of attention to the contrary. In fact, you may have read our post “Death of a Hypothesis: No Link Found Between Autism and Vaccines” regarding the Lancet medical journal’s decision to retract the paper that started it all. Several research studies or reviews of data have shown that while thimerosal has been removed from childhood vaccines, autism rates continue to go up…so we’re still in search of an answer.

If you are still uncomfortable with thimerosal in the flu vaccine, refer to my 2010-11 U.S. Flu Vaccine Information Chart to see which single-dose prefilled syringes are available without thimerosal and ask your doctor.

Please leave us a comment, and let us know your thoughts on the flu vaccine. Will your child be vaccinated?


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