Understanding thimerosal, mercury, and vaccine safety
Published Date:February 2013
Corporate Authors:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.) ; American Academy of Pediatrics. ; American Academy of Family Physicians. ; ... More ▼
Description:What is thimerosal? Is it the same as mercury? -- Why is thimerosal used in some vaccines? -- Why was thimerosal removed from vaccines given to children? -- Why is thimerosal still in some flu vaccines that children may receive? -- Was thimerosal in vaccines a cause of autism? -- What keeps today’s childhood vaccines from becoming contaminated if they do not contain thimerosal as a preservative? -- What is the difference between ethylmercury and methylmercury? -- Was thimerosal used in all childhood vaccines?
Thimerosal is a mercury-containing compound that prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria and fungus. It is used as a preservative for flu vaccines in multi-dose vials, to keep the vaccine free from contamination. Thimerosal is also used during the manufacturing process for some vaccines to prevent the growth of microbes.
In 1999, as a precautionary measure, the U.S. Public Health Service recommended removing thimerosal as a preservative from vaccines to reduce mercury exposure among infants as much as possible.
Today, except for some flu vaccines in multi-dose vials, no recommended childhood vaccines contain thimerosal as a preservative.
In all other recommended childhood vaccines, no thimerosal is present, or the amount of thimerosal is close to zero.
No reputable scientific studies have found an association between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.
There are two different compounds that contain mercury: ethylmercury and methylmercury. The low levels of ethylmercury in vaccines are broken down by the body differently and clear out of the blood more quickly than methylmercury.
Last reviewed February 2013
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