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.

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