Recently, a reader asked for a discussion on the amount of Aluminum present in vaccines. The reader was concerned regarding the possible health risks of receiving a vaccine based on Aluminum salt adjuvants.
Aluminum is used in vaccines as an adjuvant agent. An adjuvant is a vaccine component that will boost the immune response to the vaccine after an injection. Adjuvants are very useful for reducing the volume of necessary active ingredients. Adjuvants allow for lesser quantities of the vaccine and fewer overall doses.
The average vaccine containing Aluminum has about 0.1 to 0.2mg. Aluminum is generally considered harmless, as healthy adults typically ingest approximately 7-9mg of Aluminum per day. Aluminum is also used in aspirin, antacids like Maalox and Mylanta, and many food products. There's about as much Aluminum in a vaccine as in a 1-liter milk bottle. If you're a fan of green tea, you're drinking about 2.5mg (or 10-20 vaccines worth) of Aluminum per liter bottle.
Since we're talking about babies, let's discuss the intake between 0-6 months old.
Aluminum is present in both baby formula and breast milk. Approximately six months of breastmilk causes about 7mg of Aluminum ingestion. Baby formula causes about 38g of Aluminum ingestion. Soy formula comes in at about 117 mg of Aluminum ingestion.
To answer the follow-up question: Is an Aluminum injection different than ingestion? Sort of! Injection provides a much more direct path for Aluminum to exist in your bloodstream; however, there's already so much of it present in what you eat that the impact of a vaccine isn't noticeable compared to how much you get from a standard diet.
So how dangerous is all of this Aluminum? Not very. In healthy individuals, there's no significant risk. It's one of the most common minerals in our environment. It wouldn't work out well for humanity if it were an important risk factor.
In cases where kidney failure is being treated, care must be taken to avoid excessive uptake of Aluminum, as excess Aluminum is deposited in various tissues throughout the body. The primary risk here is for individuals undergoing dialysis with Aluminum contaminated water. This can be legitimately dangerous. However, outside of that edge case, the human body eliminates it as fast as we ingest it. In the interest of full disclosure, there was one study in the 1960s linking heavy Aluminum exposure in rabbit brain tissue to the same kind of tissue injuries found in Alzheimer's patients. However, this study has never been successfully reproduced and dismissed as a fluke.
In summary, there's a small amount of Aluminum uptake from vaccines relative to the amount you already receive. Thus far, outside of extreme edge-case scenarios such as kidney dialysis, you're pretty safe getting your vaccines and drinking tea.
Fernandez-Lorenzo JR1, Cocho JA, Rey-Goldar ML, Couce M, Fraga JM.Aluminum contents of human milk, cow's milk, and infant formulas, J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1999 Mar;28(3):270-5.,
Matsushima F1, Meshitsuka S, Nose T., Contents of Aluminum and manganese in tea leaves and tea infusions,Â Nihon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 1993 Oct;48(4):864-72.
Jose F Bernardo, MD, MPH, Aluminum Toxicity, MedScape.