Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

... or not

As my readers* may be aware, my recent skeptical focus has been all over the anti-vaccination lobby, a bunch of rabid, idiotic fringe-dwellers who think vaccines are the sole cause of everything bad in the world.

One of the oft-repeated canards of the antivaxers is that vaccines contain thimerosal, which contains mercury, and that mercury is the second most toxic substance known to man.

But is it?

Liam Skoda, over at the Stop The AVN Facebook group, took up the challenge of this question and in short order demolished this piece of antivax nonsense.

Liam simply looked up some known lethal dose information, the measure by which toxicity is measured out here in the real world, and found some surprising information on Thimerosal, the mercury compound used in vaccines as a preservative **

Thimerosal's LD50 is examined here.

As you can see, the highest toxicity is intravenously in mice, and that stands at 30mg/kg. Or, in less sciencey terms, A dose of 30mg per kilogram of bodyweight is sufficient to kill 50% of a given group of mice.

So, Thimerosal, 30mg/kg ivn-mus

I executed a really quick search on the same database to see what other substances were listed with IVN-MUS figures, to get a fair comparison

Zinc Chloride has an LD50 IVN-MUS of 9mg/kg
Selenium Dioxide also comes in at 9mg/kg
Hydrogen Cyanide rocks it up at 1mg
Arterenol Free Base checks in at a fantastic 0.55mg/kg

As a gauge, something you may be more familiar with, especially in large doses, Caffeine, checks in at 109mg/kg IVN in rats.

So already we've demonstrated that the antivaxers' sloppy line that "The use of any product containing mercury [Thimerosal] has been or is in the process of being banned. It is the second most toxic substance to man behind plutonium." is, frankly, utter bullshit.

Now, let's examine where the antivaxers got this from originally. You'll notice that "thimerosal" is in braces. The original quote seems to originate from the American Chronicle, specifically this article by Alan E. Moses****. You'll note that the word "thimerosal" is absent from the original sentence.

So the antivaxers added it.

This is what we've come to expect.

So now we adjust our search a little. The original sentence appears to be sloppily comparing element with element. perhaps it means that Mercury the element is the second most toxic after the element plutonium? Maybe Alan just messed up when he used the word substance, because we KNOW that's untrue. Well, it's difficult to find LD50 figures on Mercury and Plutonium, because let's face it, who goes around injecting mice with elemental mercury these days?

However, wikipedia has a good jumping point in their article on toxic metals. Going from there, we read in the Plutonium article:

However, based on chemical toxicity alone, the element is less dangerous than arsenic or cyanide and about the same as caffeine.

Wait, what?

Is it possible that entire assertion was also bullshit?

Well, it contains a grain of truth. Plutonium is definitely toxic, and definitely a fucking dangerous metal, and most certainly not something you want hanging around the house, but not the #1 most toxic element?

Well, no. Polonium checks in at an LD50 of 4.5 sieverts. Plutonium is known to have killed humans at around 5.1 sieverts. I'm not even going to do a full poll of toxic metals, because frankly my work here is done, but let's just say the Alan E Moses sentence is busted.
  • There is no ban in the pipeline on the use of all products containing mercury
  • Mercury is not the second most toxic substance on earth
  • Mercury isn't even the most toxic element
  • And neither is plutonium
So, back to mercury and Thimerosal.

Just how toxic is Thimerosal really?

Let's get something straight before we begin. We NEED Thimerosal to have toxicity in order for it to be useful. In vaccines, it is used to kill bacteria. If we replaced it, it'd probably be with something else toxic. But just how toxic is it?

Well, again, let's do some back-of-a-beermat maths and match it with Caffeine. This time, an LD50 based on oral administration in rats.

Thimerosal: 75mg/kg
Caffeine: 192mg/kg

I'm about 100kg in weight, give or take. To kill me (or technically, to kill 50% of a representative sample of guys like me), you're gonna need 19200mg of caffeine. Or 19g.

According to Health Canada, you get about 300mg of caffeine from two decent sized cups of coffee, so 150mg from a single cup. Doing the math, I'd have to have something like 1300 cups of coffee to get a lethal dose.

HOLY CRAP! I drink a couple of cups a day. that means I'd have to increase my consumption by less than a thousandfold, and I'd be dead as.

But what about thimerosal? Thimerosal is, and let's be charitable in our rounding, about three times as toxic as caffeine

Well, the FDA provides a useful table of thimerosal content in vaccines here. Let's look at the flu vaccine as an example.

The flu vaccine gives you about 25 micrograms of mercury per dose. Thimerosal is about 50% mercury by weight, so we make that 50 micrograms of thimerosal per dose. We've established we need about 7500mg, or 7.5g of thimerosal to kill me, so... let me just fire up Google and use the handy calculator function

Ah. there we go:



Yes, you just read that right. I'd need the thimerosal content of 150,000 doses of flu vaccine to kill 50% of a group of guys like me.

Holy crap. I have one flu shot a year! So I'd only have increase my one-off, once-a year flu vaccine consumption by 150,000 fold to be in some serious trouble!

Wait, hang on....

That makes no sense.

Surely I'm not eating the flu vaccine? Surely I'm injecting it? Oh, OK, let's be nice to the antivaxers and replace out the oral LD50 of 75mg/kg with the more toxic IVN-MUS LD50 of 30mg/kg - the highest toxicity in the table at 2/5ths that of the ORL-RAT - and we still get a figure of 60,000 flu shots to reach LD50 in a representative group of adults***

So, where was I?

Oh yes.

I think the flu vaccine, in terms of thimerosal's toxicity at least, is pretty safe. One flu shot contains about 1/60,000th of a lethal human dose of the scary ingredient. One cup of coffee contains 1/1300th of the lethal dose of caffeine.

And I also think that next time an antivaxxer tells you that vaccines are unsafe because mercury is the second most toxic substance on earth, you can feel quite justified in stabbing them in the eye with the nearest sharp implement you can find. In fact, I'd recommend it.



* all two of you
** or not surprising at all, if you're familiar with the usual standard of evidence employed by antixavers
*** I was purposefully fast and loose with the administration method here. I consciously wanted to match LD50 methods and ORL-RAT was the only method out of oral or intravenous that appeared on both lists. It also made the calculations much neater to understand, in the end, with a 2/5ths divide being applied after the big numbers rather than at the start
**** Alan E. Moses is on Twitter. Someone needs to alert him to his mistake and maybe rip him a new one over his terrible grammar and orthography

posted @ Monday, September 21, 2009 12:19 PM

 
 
 

Comments on this entry:

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 9/22/2009 2:45 PM
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Hmm - I've made a boo-boo in the caffeine calculation... correcting...

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Sean the Blogonaut at 9/23/2009 11:49 AM
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The AVN a mixture of wilfull ignorance and deliberate misinformation - say it ain't so bro'

Seriously, good post.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Peter Bowditch at 9/26/2009 2:31 PM
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I love it when they cite Helen Caldicott's idiocy about plutonium being the most toxic substance known to man. According to her figures, enough plutonium was released into the atmosphere by nuclear tests in 1963 to kill the population of the world 63,000 times.

Put another way, there was no reason for me to spend money on the Beatles rereleased music last week because we were all dead before they had their first hit record.

Ricin is all natural and therefore harmless. If I were the swearing kind I would call these liars fuckwits.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Johnny at 10/22/2009 6:16 AM
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You're assuming all people are clones and can tolerate the exact same amount of everything as determined by your holy grail, LD50.

Most people can eat a bag of peanuts. If I eat one peanut, my throat swells up and I could suffocate unless I get antihistamines ASAP.

Face it, people are different and react differently to different things in different amounts.

You're also assuming mercury has to kill someone before it can be considered a dangerous substance. Mercury can cause other health problems that might not kill you but could make your life a lot harder.

PLUS, because mercury is inorganic, it is not digestible. It NEVER leaves your body, and only piles up in your body as you get more vaccines and eat more crap that contains it, like canned tuna.

This analysis is tobacco science, utter quackery.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 10/22/2009 9:53 AM
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No, Johnny, this "analysis" is an illustration of a specific claim made by the mercury militia - i.e. that "Mercury is the second most toxic substance known to man". Which it's not.

Also, allergenic hypersensitivity != toxicity

Also, don't forget, the dose is what makes the toxicity. There is no such thing as "unsafe at any level".

Also, you'll note this is a back-of-envelope sketch to illustrate a specific point, not a rigorous analysis

You'll also notice I am happy to admit that thimerosal, the mercury compound demonised by the mercury militia, is in fact toxic. You'll also notice that I explain why. Different compounds have different levels of toxicity, something the mercury militia is happy to ignore in the pursuit of their a-priori conclusion - that is that mercury additives in vaccines are excessively dangerous.

It remains a fact that the antivax lobby blithely ignores chemistry, biology, immunology and toxicology in the quest to reach their goals, and people are being trampled.

So please do not make a strawman out of a post counter to your agenda, and remember, the science is currently on the pro-vax side, like it or not.

Not that any of this matters much. The main childhood vaccine schedule no longer contains thimerosal, hasn't done for a number of years now. Some adult vaccines still use thimerosal, but many of these have Hg-free options. You don't have to have mercury if you're scared of it.

And *still*, none of this justifies attacking vaccination as a whole based on a single, ingredient.

So, given that you missed the entire point and then attacked a strawman, is there any other reason we should listen to you?

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Sam at 10/29/2009 9:20 AM
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Johnny - have you got any idea on how statistics works? There's a little thing called a "Confidence Interval" that you should have a look at.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Mr T at 10/29/2009 11:06 PM
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Who the fuck injects caffine directly into their blood stream?
Does caffine stay in the body and accumulate like heavy metals?
Over a period of time and the various sources of heavy metals that are ingested and injected into the body, can increase to levels that cause serious health problems.....

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 10/30/2009 2:41 PM
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@Mr T

In answer to your question: no-one injects caffeine that I know of. But you'll notice I switched LD50 measures from ingestion to intravenous for a reason.

No idea on caffeine bio-accumulation. Doubt it.

At 25 micrograms, btw, it's going to take a looooong time to build a toxic dose of mercury from shots, even taking bio-accumulation into account. As I wrote above, something like 60,000 flu shots for LD50. You may be able to get some ill effects for less, but it's still going to take thousands of doses of flu vaccine to build an appreciable amount of mercury in your system. You'd do it a lot more easily by eating a couple of cans of tuna.

Lastly, heavy metals *are* excreted, just sloooowly. If they weren't, you'd have to have a biopsy to test for them, rather than just a hair strand analysis. Bio-accumulation in itself is not strictly permanent.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by lol at 11/6/2009 8:12 AM
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If you think the vaccine is safe then go and get your shot. I will feel safer taking my chances with the actual flu.Have fun getting aluminum, mercury, squaline, formaldehyde and polysorbate 80 injected straight into your blood. Yuppie know it all genius's like yourself deserve what they get.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by angryrat at 11/6/2009 10:01 AM
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Jason, you are remarkably calm and patient.
The thing is that you will never, ever win an argument with an ignorant person.
It's great that you wrote this post (my mother sent it to a newspaper that published some fear-mongering about flu vaccines), these people will just scream obscenities when they run out of arguments.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 11/6/2009 10:53 AM
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@angryrat : thx for the feedback. Very happy people are finding it useful!

@lol : Is that the best you've got? No duff science? No links to Joseph Mercola? No mention of mind-control microchips or illuminati-led world domination plans?

Is that it?

btw, "squalene", "geniuses". You're welcome.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by netto at 11/22/2009 3:50 AM
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Your logic is grossly flawed.

The problem is that mercury causes neurological damage. It's not being touted as instantly killing you.

How about some apples to apples here.

The ADA does not recommend the removal of amalgam fillings to be replaced with safer substances. They say the removal is is unsafe and causes toxicity. But they do recommend the replacement of amalgam fillings that are damaged with...amalgam fillings. Hypocracy.

Why does the amalgam, once removed, have to be disposed of as a toxic substance and if it is not, the dentist can lose his/her license?

Why is flouride in toothpaste, another know toxin, said to be helpful, but the tube itself gives dire warning that if a pea sized amount used for brushing is swallowed contact the poison control center immediately?

Any idea how much is swallowed by small kids everday? What about consumed in water?

How about asbestos then. It didn't kill you instantly so therefore it must be safe?

Your logic is so so flawed.

You're so set on being right that you're not concerned with being completely honest.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 11/23/2009 12:02 PM
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As I've said before, netto, this post is about addressing a single, false claim made by antivax activists.

http://mycolleaguesareidiots.com/archive/2009/09/21/428.aspx#1087

There's the previous response. Read before you rant. You'll also notice I've talked about bioaccumulation elsewhere on the page.

I also note you make a lot of implications by loaded question, a fairly common antivax tactic whereby if the answer is not immediately forthcoming, somehow the antivax case has been proven.

Oh, by the way, the "poisons control warnings on toothpaste" claim varies internationally. Here are the australian regulations, for instance.

http://www.tga.gov.au/label/index.htm

Labelling appears to only be a requirement for products containing over 1000mg/kg of Sodium Fluoride, no idea, and currently zero care factor on the US regulation, but I suspect you need to get out more.

In short, try harder.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by ?why?why not. at 1/17/2010 2:31 PM
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the fact remains that we are all being poisoned weather we choose to be willing gineapigs or pioneers of antivaccination .god forbid anyone you know becomes ill from a direct result of thimerosal.pharmaceutical satan is upon us it would appear...you can overdose on just about any substance.barring peace and love.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 1/17/2010 3:05 PM
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Do I even need to comment on the above?

"Pharmaceutical Satan", eh?

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by neil at 2/3/2010 3:32 AM
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A very entertaining read thank you. I believe it was Karl Popper, the eminent philosopher, who said "(that) unless a scientific theory is capable of being disproved, it isn't scientific..."

This is a wonderful theory in, and of, itself because it not only allows contrary points to be argued scientifically, it positivly encourages so to do.

This is the basis of science guys: Every point of view is valid until it is proven otherwise through experiment and evidence. In other words, to hold a fixed opinion to the exclusion of all other viewpoints without investigation, anslysis and conclusion is unscientific and ignorant.

Such ignorance must surely disqualify one from pronouncing views in the first place? Thus ranking the holder of such views in accord with persons of lower intelligence who feel compelled to the use of base language when their ability to argue scientifically is exhausted..

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Rupert at 3/3/2010 3:54 PM
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Sloppy math, Janson. Your fatal dose of coffee would be 19g / 0.15g = 127 cups not 1300.
BTW a study of randomly selected households found a mercury in air concentration of 0.05 micrograms/cu m. The average adult breathes ~ 20cu m./day so do the math and you'll see 1 dose fluvax equals about a month of breathing in mercury intake.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 3/3/2010 5:26 PM
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Rupert, you know what? You're right.

Dammit. I corrected some sloppy math just after publishing and still that got through. D'oh.

Interesting on the airborne mercury stat - do you have a study link?

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Shannon at 3/23/2010 11:40 AM
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uh, Johnny?
Ethyl mercury is found in thimerosol. (Thimerosol, btw, is not used in childhood vaccines anymore)
Methyl mercury is found in fish and thermometers.
ETHYL mercury exits the body within a couple of days.
METHYL mercury can be retained for long periods of time.
Advice? Know that of which you speak, before speaking. You'll save yourself a lot of foolishness.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Bob at 3/24/2010 9:32 AM
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I know it's pedantic, but after lol said "genius's" and you corrected him to "geniuses", I felt I should point out that both of these are incorrect. It is in fact, "genii".

However, great post, thank you for clearing something up that has undoubtedly worried us all. Thank you. :)

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by JGH-4774 at 3/30/2010 1:23 PM
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uh Shannon?

1) The kind of mercury used in thermometers is elemental mercury, not methyl mercury.

2) It is thimerosal, not “thimerosol.”
3) Furthermore, it is not true that thimerosal “is not used in childhood vaccines anymore.”
I’ll post more on that later.

4) You stated, “ETHYL mercury exits the body within a couple of days.” This implies that ethyl mercury is not harmful. This is extremely misleading.


Yes, methylmercury (MeHg) is the kind of mercury found in seafood, and ethylmercury (EtHg) is the kind of mercury found in thimerosal. Indeed, methyl and ethylmercury are different compounds, although they are “close chemical cousins.” Yes, the toxicokinetics of methylmercury and ethylmercury are different. None of this means that ethylmercury is a benign substance. In fact, ethyl mercury -like all mercury compounds- is highly toxic (and in extremely low doses).

Thimerosal (sodium ethylmercurithiosalicylate) injected into the body is metabolized or degraded into ethyl mercury (and thiosalicylate). Some of the ethyl mercury is then partially excreted from the body and some of the ethyl mercury is degraded into inorganic mercury where it is deposited in various organs, including the kidney and the brain.

Yes Shannon, while Burbacher (2005) demonstrated that methylmercury clears from the blood faster than ethylmercury, he also showed that ethylmercury converts into inorganic mercury in the body much more readily than methylmercury. This is critical because inorganic mercury is deposited in the brain, where it is effectively trapped. It take years to be excreted, if it is in fact ever removed. The accumulation of inorganic mercury in the brain is associated with increased numbers of microglia, decreased numbers of astrocytes (brain/neuroglial cells), and higher risk of autoimmune reactions. Inorganic mercury is highly toxic to the brain.

Shannon, know that of which you speak, before speaking. You'll save yourself a lot of foolishness.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by JGH-4774 at 3/30/2010 1:31 PM
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According to Clarkson [1], “methylmercury and ethylmercury distributes to all body tissues, crossing the blood-brain barrier and the placental barrier, and ethylmercury also moves freely throughout the body.”

Burbacher [2] found that thimerosal is distributed to the brain much more readily than methyl mercury. Burbacher determined that injected ethyl mercury cleared from the bloodstream much more rapidly than ingested methylmercury. However, his study also found that a larger fraction of the ethyl mercury remained in the brains of the macaques, where it was converted to more harmful inorganic mercury.

[1] Clarkson TW, et al. (2007). “Mechanisms of mercury disposition in the body”. Am J Ind Med 50 (10): 757–64.

[2] Burbacher TM, Shen DD, Liberato N, Clarkson T. “Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methylmercury or vaccines containing thimerosal.” Environ Health Perspect. 2005;113 (8):1015 –1021

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by JGH-4774 at 3/30/2010 1:38 PM
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Shannon, regarding your statement, "Thimerosol is not used in childhood vaccines anymore." That statement is simply not true. And the official website of the CDC and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health prove that it is untrue.

*The "regular" seasonal flu vaccine (12.5 mcg of ethyl mercury/shot) is recommended for all infants/children over 6 months of age. It is a two shot series for first time recipients, including children. This flu shot is not "optional." It is on the official CDC "Recommended Immunization Schedule" just like all the other typical pediatric vaccines like DTaP and MMR. [1]

*The H1N1 flu vaccine (12.5 mcg of ethyl mercury/shot) is also recommended for all infants/children over 6 months of age. The H1N1 flu vaccine is always a two shot series (four weeks apart).The H1N1 flu shot is not "optional." It is on the official CDC "Recommended Immunizations for Babies" schedule. [2]

*In addition, the website of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health confirms that these pediatric flu vaccines contain thimerosal. [3]

*Finally, the website of the FDA verifies that thimerosal-free versions of both the pediatric 'regular' seasonal flu vaccine and the pediatric H1N1 flu vaccine are in "limited supply."[4]

Therefore, the statement that "Thimerosol is not used in childhood vaccines anymore" is easily and demonstrably false.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/child-schedule.htm#printable
[2] http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/spec-grps/infants/rec-iz-babies.htm
[3] http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/components.htm
[4] http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/ucm096228.htm#t
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# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 3/30/2010 1:48 PM
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@JGH-4474

link to the monkey study. Note the info on Hg half-lives

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16079072

The statement "not used in childhood vaccinations" refers to the US childhood vaccination schedule.

Here's the FDA info on that paediatric vaccine schedule

http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/ucm096228.htm#t1

You'll note (as you almost mentioned in passing) the flu category has two - count them - two "thimerosal free" options.

anyway, would you like to get to the point instead of gish-galloping all over my blog, please?

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by JGH-4774 at 3/30/2010 3:00 PM
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Jason,

1) Your analysis of the statement that ‘mercury is second most toxic substance/element on earth’ is moot. Yes, medically under-informed “antivaxers” (as you call them) often make statements that are technically incorrect. So do plenty of under-informed immunization advocates (such as Shannon above). The point is that all species (forms) of mercury are extremely toxic. And the greater point is that a growing list of mainstream physicians, pediatricians, and medical toxicologists believe it is unwise to purposefully inject mercury, even “small” amounts, into pregnant women or infants.

2) You understand the difference between acute and subacute, don't you?

No one is accusing the amount of thimerosal contained in pediatric vaccines of causing acute illness (e.g., death). The concern is that the amount of thimerosal contained in pediatric vaccines may cause subacute neurologic harm, such as neurodevelopmental changes/injury to infants.

More specifically, the concern of a growing number of mainstream physicians, pediatricians, and medical toxicologists is that the cumulative exposure to the fetus and neonate and 2-6 month old infant to subacute doses of mercury (both methyl and ethyl mercury) from multiple routes of exposure* can cause negative neurological changes to the developing CNS of infants. Special concern is growing, especially, about a subset of the pediatric population who are genetically less efficient at heavy metal or other toxin removal (a process involving the endogenous antioxidant glutathione and known as the methylation cycle). It is well established that the developing CNS of a fetus, neonate, or 2 month old infant is much more vulnerable to heavy metal insult/injury than an older child. In fact, the pediatric brain undergoes a profound degree of maturation, development and growth during the first two years of life.

*Potential prenatal mercury exposure can come from maternal consumption of polluted fish (methyl mercury), and RhoGAM injections and flu vaccines (ethyl mercury). Postnatal exposure came from pediatric vaccines from 1990-2002 (see below), and potentially via breast milk from mercury exposed mothers, and from pediatric flu vaccines currently. (See: Clarkson TW, et al. (2002). “The Three Modern Faces of Mercury.” Environ Health Perspect 110 (S1): 11–23.) : http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2002/suppl-1/11-23clarkson/clarkson-full.html

The fact is US regulatory and advisory health agencies allowed approximately 40 million infants under the age of 6 months in the US to be injected with between 50 mcg to 62.5 mcg of ethyl mercury on a single day (at their 2, 4, and 6 month “well visits“) for a decade (1990 to 2000). And this was done despite the fact that there was (and still is) no known or established safety limit for injected ethyl mercury exposure for either (a) neonates or infants, or (b) adults. I, and many in the health care field, believe this was incredibly unwise.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by JGH-4774 at 3/30/2010 3:15 PM
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gish-galloping...?

At least you possess an acute sense of humor.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 3/30/2010 3:18 PM
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1) Again, what's your point? I've taken apart a specific point here, and you appear to be drying to drown it with nuance. There are examples on both sides of hyperbole and error, but I would argue the vast majority of that is on the "anti" side. If you'd like me to do some data mining to back up that assertion. I can certainly do that, but I'm pretty confident it bears out, but as you put it, that's moot.

2) Specifically on acute/subacute: Are you taking the piss?

Yes, I know the difference between acute and subacute.

Again, there's no good study data proving damage, but still thimerosal has been phased out of childhood schedules (which is now available in a mercury-free form) on the precautionary principle, and over time, it will almost certainly vanish entirely from the remaining couple of vaccine variants which retain it.

This kind of change over time is what happens in science - I'm sure you and I both know this.

In the fields of proof, there are no absolutes. A balance must be struck to find acceptable levels of efficacy and risk. The antivax side have exploded into a mass PR campaign before proof has been established to an acceptable degree. The money they're using on scare campaigns would be better employed in actual scientific testing, if they really want to establish their assertions of risk.

Instead, they employ propaganda techniques - lies - to achieve the aim of changing (or in some cases, destroying) vaccination as a medical technique.

* Yes, it is reasonable to look for long-term effects, and this is what the scientific community is doing.

* No, it is not reasonable to extrapolate this ongoing diligence into an outright scare campaign. This is what is happening TODAY.

- Deaths and injuries are happening because of the ongoing antivax scare campaign. This is established.
- Deaths and injuries may or may not be occurring due to a subset of treatment modalities. This is *not* established.

You'll note, I'm not arguing that Mercury is perfectly safe. I'd be a fool to do that. I'm arguing that the antivax lobby vastly overstate the dangers and do direct harm as a result.

You're informed and you're good with data, but I fear you missed the point somewhat. Unless, of course, I've misread you.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 3/30/2010 3:20 PM
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"At least you possess an acute sense of humor."

Three long comments in a row qualifies in my book. I'm quite sensitive to the gish-gallop, having encountered it a number of times in the past.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by JHG-4774 at 3/30/2010 3:29 PM
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Sorry, I'm a thorough kind of fellow. I just never heard the expression before. Are you in the UK?

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 3/30/2010 3:31 PM
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not any more...

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by JGH-4774 at 3/30/2010 3:38 PM
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I've enjoyed this. You’re quite agile. More tomorrow...

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by David Chenard at 6/9/2010 9:32 PM
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First of all, mercury is an extremely powerful neurotoxin. Injecting even trace amounts of mercury into children has not been proven safe, and it causing death is not the only concern.

Secondly, the claims made are that mercury is the second most toxic metal and one of the most toxic substances known to man. Whether that is true or not, exposure to small amounts of mercury can cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioral dysfunctions—all of which can lead to autistic like signs and symptoms.

Most importantly, don't you tell me that I should inject my baby with anything unless you're willing to take full responsibility for any negative consequences and agree to pay for any and all medical expenses that result from the injection for the life of the child. Will you? Of course not. If you want to inject your baby with a minimal amount of a powerful neurotoxin because doing so won't kill a grown man, then I hope it works out for you. Just understand that persuading a person to do a thing that poses even the smallest risk to their child's health is not your place, and I resent your doing so.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 6/9/2010 11:34 PM
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@David

I don't think you actually read the post, did you? It doesn't read as if you did.

Basically, you've not backed up any of your assertions, and you've just repeated a bunch more antivax canards.

You don't appear to be conversant with either toxicology or basic chemistry, or at least if you are you've thrown away all semblance of nuance. I mean, you *do* know that mercury compounds behave differently to elemental mercury, right? In the same way that table salt (NaCl) is not the same as elemental sodium.

Right?

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Erich at 8/17/2010 3:49 AM
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I'd like to start off with a simple Hi5 to Jason. I really enjoyed this post.
And just putting it out there, and I know it wasn't smart, and I wouldn't advise trying it, but when my dad was young, himself, as well as some of his friends put mercury from thermometers in their mouths for fun. lolzor. elemental or not, it's probably not a good idea.

I don't think its worth making such a fuss over, I personally don't get flu shots, but not cause of the mercury, or any other potentially harmful additive, I just don't get sick often, so I don't see the point.

I think these people need to calm down a little. In my relatively limited experience the human body is pretty resilient, and in most cases, a lifetime of mercury is not that terrible for you. It sucks if you happen to be the one that it hurts, especially if you happen to be a child, but that's life.

I'm Waffling, but thank you, Please excuse my language, I was rushed.
Erich (21, 3rd year bioMed Tech, South Africa)

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by MumofSome at 9/9/2010 7:21 PM
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JGH-4774 - I love you. You are awesome.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jim West at 11/1/2010 1:01 AM
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Jason, Your article doesn't address its own topic, that elemental mercury is the 2nd most toxic stubstance. That claim is about elemental mercury and you claim it is difficult to find data on elemental mercury then go on to blab about compounds. Here's wiki on mercury LD50. Mercury is EXTREMELY poisonous. The anti-vaccers are correct:

Case control studies have shown effects such as tremors, impaired cognitive skills, and sleep disturbance in workers with chronic exposure to mercury vapor even at low concentrations in the range 0.7–42 μg/m3.[83][84] A study has shown that acute exposure (4 – 8 hours) to calculated elemental mercury levels of 1.1 to 44 mg/m3 resulted in chest pain, dyspnea, cough, hemoptysis, impairment of pulmonary function, and evidence of interstitial pneumonitis.[85]

Also, Jason, see this eloquent lecture/video by a chemist talking about mercury in vaccines:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4115912987954370615#

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 11/1/2010 10:31 AM
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*headesk* *headesk* *deaddesk*

1: THERE IS NO ELEMENTAL MERCURY IN VACCINES
2: Even if there was, the quantity would be absurdly tiny
3: THERE IS NO FUCKING ELEMENTAL MERCURY IN VACCINES
4: The bound mercury in ethyl compounds cannot be metabolised into toxic forms. It's too stable
5: HEADDESK

What does it take to get these points across?

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 11/1/2010 10:41 AM
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By the way, don't give me videos from Boyd Haley. Ever.

Seriously

Here's some info on Boyd from Orac

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/06/pumping_autistic_children_full_of_an_ind_1.php

And some more from Bowditch

http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/haley.htm

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Disgusted at 11/12/2010 11:37 AM
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@Jason: you do come across as somewhat neurotic in your fervent attack on people who have taken their right to use their Freewill and opt to not vaccinate. If readers are not getting the point of your screed, it may be well to consider that perhaps your "putting across" of your points, is at fault.

I would be interested to learn of your occupation and from whom your company/employer, if there is one, receives funding.

You would do well to enter into more frequent discussion with JGH: you might learn much. that person is articulate, knowledgeable, calm with a vocabulary and approach that does not necessitate resorting to foul language. No-one, posting information on your points, ever suggested that any mercurial content or type was actively sexual or reproducing in any manner.

@ Bob: genii is more correctly the plural of genie although it has, through extensive misuse, become more or less accepted as an alternative plural for genius. Geniuses is perfectly correct.

# re: Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

Left by Jason at 11/12/2010 11:45 AM
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"I would be interested to learn of your occupation and from whom your company/employer, if there is one, receives funding."

Nice work there. Go the old "big pharma shill" gambit. Never heard that one before

I am in fact a software engineer for a privately held company in the logistics industry, a fact that's fairly easy to discover if you have research skills.

The only things I've ever received from big pharma are a couple of pens I picked up in a doctor's waiting room, and the benefit of years of medical research.

I do not care how articulate "JGH" is. You can be articulate and utterly wrong at the same time.
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