Aluminum in Infants

This infographic demonstrates that the majority of exposure to aluminum in infants comes from vaccines.

Children fully vaccinated using the CDC schedule for the first 6 months will receive 3,450mcg of aluminum into the blood from those vaccines, as the aluminum salts used as vaccine adjuvants slowly dissolve at the intramuscular injection site and enter the bloodstream. This process takes no more than 6 months, so 100% will have been absorbed by 1 year of age.

Breast milk only contains an average of 23.9 mcg/L, and infants drink an average of 0.74 L/day, for a total dietary intake of 6,455mcg of aluminum in the first 12 months. Most of this will be defecated out, but up to 0.78% could leak across the gut lining and enter the bloodstream. This would amount to 50mcg of aluminum over the year. Formula milk contains an average of 226 mcg/L and soy formula can contain up to 930 mcg/L. With the same amount drunk and same gut bioavailability, this would be 476mcg and 1959mcg respectively entering the gut. Infants on a semi-solid food diet will be getting an average of 767mcg. There is no diet that exposes infants to more aluminum through the gut than they are from vaccines.

The third biggest normal exposure is air, but the amounts here are insignificant. Multiplying average tidal volume by average respiratory rate results in 730 m3 of air being breathed by an infant by 1 year of age. Normal city air has around 0.4 mcg/m3 of aluminum, resulting in an intake of 292mcg. Lung bioavailability has been estimated at 2%, so only 6mcg of aluminum enters the bloodstream through the lungs during infancy. Even in a city with high pollution or industrial air, with up to 8 mcg/m3 of aluminum, that uptake figure only reaches 116mcg. Infant exposure to aluminum via the air is insignificant.

Sources for all these figures are listed and linked below.

Sources:

Mistakes of Mitkus (#1)

The argument that the amount of aluminum in vaccines is safe relies on a 2011 paper by Mitkus, which presents an aluminum pharmacokinetic model. The paper is flawed. The model is flawed. Here is an example of an error in the Mitkus 2011 paper.

Priest 2004 provided the equation for aluminum retention used in Mitkus’s model. The equation and the half-lives stated in this paper are inconsistent.

1.4 days half-life => exponent of 0.495
40 days half-life => exponent of 0.0172
1727 days half life => exponent of 0.000401

0.595 as 0.495 and 0.172 as 0.0172 look like typos.

Mitkus took the equation and half-lives from Priest’s paper, and apparently did not notice the inconsistency. He not only failed to correct the typos in the equation, he added one of his own, mis-stating 11.4 as 11.

Newton, the original source of the equation and co-author of the 2004 paper by Priest, later authored a paper with the same equation… but with the none of the typos.

Mitkus used the wrong equation

How could Mitkus have made such a basic error?

How did none of the co-authors or peer reviewers spot it?

Why has the paper not been retracted in light of this error?

Sources:

Priest 2004: The biological behaviour and bioavailability of aluminium in man, with special reference to studies employing aluminium-26 as a tracer: review and study update  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15152306

Mitkus 2011: Updated aluminum pharmacokinetics following infant exposures through diet and vaccination https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22001122

Newton 2012: Long-term retention of injected aluminium-26  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22549096

Aluminum from Vaccines and Diet

Let’s calculate how much aluminum babies are exposed to from each of the three main sources of aluminum exposure – diet, the air, and vaccines – in their first year.

Breast milk contains about 40mcg/L of aluminum [Keith, 2002].  Newborn babies drink an average of 0.5L/day, increasing over the first 30 days up to an average of 0.75L/day, which continues until they start replacing milk with solid foods [KellyMom].  A fully breastfed baby will therefore ingest 10.8mg of aluminum in breast milk over the first year.  Formula contains about 225mcg/L of aluminum [Keith, 2002]; by the same calculation, a baby will ingest 60.8mg of aluminum from formula in the first year.  About 0.78% of ingested aluminum lactate is absorbed through the gut into the bloodstream [Mitkus, 2011], for a total aluminum uptake of 84mcg from breast milk or 475mcg from formula.

We are also exposed to aluminum in the air we breathe; about 0.86 mcg/kg/day of aluminum enters our lungs [Krewski, 2007].  For an average weight newborn, that is 2.8mcg/day, increasing to 8.3mcg/day by the end of the year, for a total aluminum intake of 2.2mg for the first year.  About 2% is absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream, for a total uptake of aluminium through the lungs of 44mcg for the year.

An unvaccinated baby will therefore absorb between 128mcg (breast milk) and 518mcg (formula) of aluminum into the bloodstream in the first year.  Most of this will be eliminated by functioning kidneys; the rest will accumulate in the bones and soft tissues.

Based on the 2011 ACIP vaccination schedule, the total amount of aluminum in all the vaccines given in the first year of life is 3,635mcg [Mitkus, 2011]; most is in the form of aluminum hydroxide, and the rest is in the form of aluminum phosphate. 

After being injected intra-muscularly, the aluminum slowly gets absorbed into the bloodstream; aluminum hydroxide is believed to be fully absorbed after 166 days and aluminum phosphate after 56 days [Flarend, 1997].  The latest vaccine in the first-year schedule is given at 6 months, so by the end of the first year all the aluminum from all the vaccines has had time to be fully absorbed, so 3,635mcg of aluminum from vaccines enters the bloodstream in the first year.

The total intake and uptake of aluminum, and the percentages from each source, are shown in the tables below.

Vaccines are the major source of aluminum exposure in the first year: between 87% and 97% of the aluminum absorbed into the bloodstream comes from vaccines, with only a very small proportion from the diet and air.  If breast-fed, the amount of aluminum absorbed from vaccines is 40x more than the amount absorbed from diet and air; if formula-fed, it is 5x more. 

As a result of the increased exposure to aluminum, the accumulation of aluminum in the bones and soft tissues will be far higher in a vaccinated baby than in an unvaccinated baby.

Sources: