Formaldehyde fears without merit

 Posted by on February 18, 2011  Add comments
Feb 182011
Formaldehyde, the simplest aldehyde

Chemical formula for formaldehyde

Vaccine critics often cite specific ingredients in the vaccines as their chief concern. As Leart pointed out in an article here several days ago, sometimes these alleged dangerous ingredients aren’t even really in the vaccines.

Of course, more often than not, vaccine critics manage to at least point to ingredients that actually are in the vaccines. One such “toxic” ingredient popularly cited as a reason vaccines aren’t safe is formaldehyde.

According to one anti-vaccine website:

In the body, formaldehyde can cause proteins to irreversibly bind to DNA. Laboratory animals exposed to large doses of inhaled formaldehyde over their lifetimes have developed more cancers of the nose and throat than are usual, as have workers in particle-board sawmills… Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. More hazardous than most chemicals in 5 out of 12 ranking systems, on at least 8 federal regulatory lists, ranked as one of the most hazardous compounds (worst 10%) to ecosystems and human health (Environmental Defense Fund)

And Dr. Jay Gordon, pediatrician to the stars, told Cookie Magazine he wants formaldehyde out of the vaccines:

Right now we’re creating vaccines using ingredients that are cheap preservatives, but it could be done better. It means, let’s see if we can get the aluminum out of them. Let’s see if we can get the formaldehyde out of them. Let’s see if we can produce them in a way that makes a little more sense for safety.

The implication is clear. Formaldehyde, among other ingredients, is not safe. But then why is it used in the first place? Well, for starters, as surgical oncologist and medical blogger Orac explains, formaldehyde is merely used in the vaccine manufacturing process, and can only be detected in trace amounts at most in the vaccine itself by the time it is available to the public. According to Orac:

You breathe more formaldehyde sitting in an L.A. traffic jam in your Mercedes (or whatever no doubt highly expensive care you drive, thanks to credulous patients like Jenny McCarthy) than is in any vaccine. The plastic products and varnishes in your house produce more.

Additionally, critics like Dr. Gordon fail to cite reputable data demonstrating the dangers of formaldehyde in the trace amounts that might remain in vaccines after production. This claim that formaldehyde in vaccines is particularly dangerous is simply asserted and then repeated again and again as dogma. And when asked to produce the requisite supporting data, vaccine critics have been less than forthcoming.

And Jay Gordon isn’t the only prominent figure openly opposed to formaldehyde in vaccines. Dr. Robert Sears suggests it’s harmful in his book in the same paragraph he admits he has no basis for that assertion:

Vaccines also have some other chemicals (such as the neurotoxin aluminum and the carcinogen formaldehyde). Research hasn’t shown that the amount of chemicals in vaccines poses any risk to babies, but it is an exposure nonetheless.

So his point is the fact that something is there means that it’s there and, in the absence of any other available information beyond that, it’s perfectly reasonable to invent callous assertions based solely on one’s personal biases and superstitions.

Of course the biggest flaw in the criticism against this awful “carcinogen” is explained by Infectious Disease specialist and medical blogger Mark Crislip. Crislip points out that the amount of formaldehyde in vaccines is less than what our bodies produce as part of normal biochemistry in the course of a day.

Paradoxically, vaccine critics tend to chastise practices they regard as “unnatural” in favor of consuming substances they regard as “natural.” Yet, when it comes to natural substances that happen to exist in trace amounts in a vaccine like mercury, aluminum, or substances like formaldehyde that are even naturally produced by our own bodies, suddenly it simply must be bad for us…even when there is no data to support that notion.

One would think that any rational human being, especially a medical professional, when confronted with the fact that our bodies produce greater quantities of formaldehyde than found in vaccines, in addition to the lack of data showing harm, would conclude that either the formaldehyde in the vaccines is probably reasonably safe ,or we’re all doomed from the start, whether we vaccinate or not.

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  41 Responses to “Formaldehyde fears without merit”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Skepacabra, The Vaccine Times. The Vaccine Times said: Please join me in welcoming our new writer for the #VaccineTimes, Michael Rosch, a.k.a @mjr256 #stopAVN [...]

  2. [...] Shameless self-promotion I am now an official writer for The Vaccine Times, and you can check out my first article here. [...]

  3. Formaldehyde is toxic, even in very small doses. Not surprisingly, it has some of the same effects on the brain as thimerosol – namely, among other things, it destroys neurofibrils in the brain.

    • Do you understand the abstract you link to?

      They are dealing with much higher doses than the trace level you might be to detect in vaccines if you use very sensitive equipment.

      • It is not an abstract. It’s a full research article produced by scientists at these institutions: State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of Biophysics, Graduate School, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China, 2 Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis, School of Pharmacy, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom.

        Here is the intro:
        Recent studies have shown that neurodegeneration is closely related to misfolding and aggregation of neuronal tau. Our previous results show that neuronal tau aggregates in formaldehyde solution and that aggregated tau induces apoptosis of SH-SY5Y and hippocampal cells. In the present study, based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) observation, we have found that formaldehyde at low concentrations induces tau polymerization whilst acetaldehyde does not.

        • But you linked to the abstract (and what they call low concentrations are still pretty damn high compared to what you’ll find in vaccines, assuming you even detect it).

    • Formaldehyde is a natural bi-product of metabolism. So you’re suggesting that the the human body is toxic to the human body. And that’s just asinine.

      • Formaldehyde is a common environmental agent found in paint, cloth, exhaust gas and many other medicinal and industrial products [19]. Formaldehyde exposure leads to formation of DNA/protein crosslinks, a major mechanism of DNA damage. The DNA/protein crosslinks have been used as a measure of dose in drug delivery [20]. Formaldehyde, as a crosslinking agent, also reacts with thiol and amino groups, leading to protein polymerization [21], [22].

        Formaldehyde also damages the hippocampus, which belongs to the limbic system and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation.
        In Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage; memory problems and disorientation appear among the first symptoms.

        • I am amazed that your post is still up, but it was just written today. This site is obviously a shill for the pharmaceutical industry. The number of parental complaints and testimonials regarding the harm done to their infant children by this unbridled chemical warfare far outweigh the little handful of anecdotal comments here. Good for you for providing facts and a thoughtful, measured response and not allowing blatant propaganda to generate anger or frustration. Wish I could do the same.

          • Unlike the propagandists at Age of Autism, we don’t censor comments we disagree with. That comment as well as the numerous other comments from vaccine critics will remain on the page indefinitely.

            And by “obvious” you mean you just choose to believe it for no other reason than we disagree with your ideological beliefs. If you’re going to say we’re “obviously” shills for pharma, then you’re going to have to provide physical evidence that would constitute its obviousness; otherwise, you’re just trying to poison the well like every other vaccine critic zombie who just declares anyone who disagrees with them to be paid shills. I have never received so much as a penny from any pharma company in my life. But given the current economy, if you know any pharma companies willing to pay me to write the same stuff I happily write for free, please let me know. I could use the money.

            I couldn’t care less about the number of anecdotes the internet can cough up as it’s scientifically worthless. Facts are facts and bad evidence is bad evidence. There are plenty of anecdotes of deadly car crashes and yet I suspect you don’t stay off the road. As has been explained ad nauseum, it’s the risk/benefit ratio that matters.

        • Kathy, you posted the paper three times. I assume you understand it. Then could you answer some questions about it, since I know little about biochemistry.

          1. Why did they test acetaldehyde?

          2. What was the purpose of the ethanol and methanol?

          3. The en vivo was done on what type of animal? What were the equivalent amounts for humans?

          4. What was the level of formaldehyde compared to the amount typically found in normal cells due to normal cell metabolism?

          Thank you.

  4. Interesting concept that science fact needs to be couched in opinion.

    1. The article Kathy posted at plos One is a complete article. It is not an abstract. It is one of several articles pointing out that toxic levels of formaldehyde have moderation problems.

    2. There are two approaches in toxic chemical evaluation.
    a) prove it is harmful
    b) prove it is harmless

    The tendency of regulatory authorities is to demand a list of toxic outcomes prior to performing an investigation. While Dr. Christopher De Rosa, director of the CDC’s Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine has declared that “”there is no safe level of exposure” to formaldehyde, the context was in trailers. Obviously, things are much safer in your bloodstream than a trailer.

    Frankly, the issues are as follows:

    1. Formaldehyde is a known toxin at some level
    2. The safe levels of exposure will take a decade to determine
    3. Putting a known toxin at an unkwon “safe” level into your body is an interesting gamble.

    Consider lead (PB). If it were an anti-bacterial used in vaccines, would you accept a vaccine with PB in it? “Safe” levels of lead have been established, while the AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS has declared that there is no safe level of lead for children.

    Ahh, I love it.

    Let’s just keep saying it’s ok, when we truly don’t know, and hope for the best.

    There are alternatives ways to kill bacteria in vaccines.

    For myself, I’m going to go have a nice cup of Mercury (HG) while you folks squabble over “safe” levels of poison.

    • We know the safe levels of formaldehyde, and vaccines (which contain far less than that which is found in the human body every day) is well within those safety parameters. The only gamble is in NOT vaccinating and taking your chances with known deadly viruses when you could protect yourself. Similarly, even though seat belts can fail and cause fatalities, the true gambler is the one who opts NOT to wear their seat belt because the odds are infinitely less in their favor. Since the first rule of toxicology is that dosage is the factor that determines if something is toxic, then I see no problem with the notion of lead in my vaccines if it meets safety levels and is repeatedly shown to be safe at those levels in numerous well-designed, independent, peer-reviewed studies. Of course there are safe levels of lead. I’m going to have to see your citations suggesting they don’t exist. And the fact that you’re still spouting the mercury fallacy in the year 2012 only indicates that you’re completely ignorant of the arguments against your position or are being deliberately dishonest. Or some amalgam of both. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll enjoy a nice methylmercury-saturated tuna sandwhich.

      • Mercury Fillings Smoking Teeth = Poison Gas

        Here is the embed text:

      • Michael,

        Why are we putting Toxins in our Vaccines ? That is my question because it just doesn’t seem right to inject a human with known Toxins no matter how small or large. There should be laws against this because if I would put small doses of Formaldehyde and Mercury in my Husbands food and he was to die, and a toxiology report was done and showed that there were traces of these Toxins would I not go to Prison ? probably yes ! So let me get this straight we can give a 1 month old poison and that is ok ? because it is our Government that allows drug companies to do this ? so No one is to Blame if the someone dies ? or has a serious reaction to the Vaccine ? Is that not a Double Standard ? It sickens me to see what is going on in Our Country, and how Greed and No regard for human life means anything to people that are supposed to be working to help people not to hurt people. I am just disgusted by the whole thing. It is a sad reality ! Well thank you for your Time . :)


        • “Why are we putting Toxins in our Vaccines ?”

          As any toxicologist in the world will tell you, we are doing no such thing. Your initial question is simply not valid. And I’ve already gone into length into why the ingredients you mention are entirely safe at the levels used in vaccines, or in the case of mercury, not used in the vaccines anymore anyway to even matter.

    • 1. She linked to the abstract (though the article could be downloaded from there) not directly to the article.

      2. You can’t prove anything is completely harmless, but you can show that low enough doses are of such low risk as to be not worth worrying about (and the amount left in vaccines is barely detectable). If we can’t find any harmful effect below our noise floor at a certain dose then I wouldn’t have any qualms about just declaring it not worth throwing lots of resources at reducing below the point at which we can’t detect an effect (given that society has only finite resources).

      • Imperial College – London

        The Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council funded research shows that formalin (another name for formaldehyde) causes chemical damage to vaccine proteins and creates reactive chemical groups called carbonyls. The immune system reacts strongly when it spots this damage.

  5. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Concludes Formaldehyde/Methylene Glycol Unsafe As Currently Used In Hair Straighteners


    The twelfth edition of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (RoC) contains a change in the listing status of formaldehyde. Prior editions of the RoC had listed formaldehyde as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, and following a rigorous scientific review, formaldehyde is now reassigned to the category known to be a human carcinogen.
    Published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Toxicology Program

    • How come you didn’t answer my questions about the PlosOne article you posted?

      Seriously what are the levels of formaldehyde mentioned in the articles you are now posed compared to the static level in humans due to cell metabolism and vaccines?

      Don’t post anymore links, just show answer the questions in your own words with the actual numbers. Thank you.

      • Most vaccines contain formaldehyde. This is from the package insert of Tripedia, an infant/childhood vaccine which shows 0.02% formaldehye with each dose.

        “Each 0.5 mL dose also contains, by assay, not more than 0.170 mg of aluminum and not more than 100 μg (0.02%) of residual formaldehyde.
        Tripedia vaccine is indicated for active immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) as a five-dose series in infants and children 6 weeks to 7 years of age (prior to seventh birthday).”

        This is from the full research article I linked to above:

        “We have examined the role of formaldehyde in misfolding of protein tau [26]. In particular, we investigated the toxicity of formaldehyde-induced tau aggregates on human neuroblastoma cells (SH-SY5Y cell line) and rat hippocampal cells [27]. The results showed that low concentrations (0.01–0.1%) of formaldehyde are sufficient to induce formation of amyloid-like tau aggregates, which can induce apoptosis of both SH-SY5Y and hippocampal cells. This may be significant to understand the mechanism of chronic damage caused by methanol toxicity and formaldehyde stress [18], [28].”

        • Why are you not answering my questions?

          Since we know that formaldehyde is created as a part of normal metabolism, could you please tell us what the difference between the amount in the human body versus the vaccine?

          And you still need to answer these questions in your own words, please do not cut and paste from the article:

          1. Why did they test acetaldehyde?

          2. What was the purpose of the ethanol and methanol?

          3. The en vivo was done on what type of animal? What were the equivalent amounts for humans?

          • if i didnt know any better chris id say your either being paid to defend the vaccine, your earning money from the vaccineor you went so far into education that you cant tbear to be wrong about anything. accept it mate ive read all posts and kathy has given clear evidence. but oh no, thats not good enough! you want irrelevent answers IN HER OWN WORDS. get a grip! who do you think you are? shes given far far more evidence than you. infact you havent given any. so why not do one! complete and utter donut!

          • They’re anything but “irrelevant answers” and yes, I noticed you failed to answer any of them.

            And the reason Chris demands those answers be in one’s own words instead of a cheap copy&paste job is the same reason professors want students to answer in their own words on tests, so the answerer demonstrates they a true understanding of the material. Though to be fair, I can see why you’d like to avoid satisfying such a reasonable demand.

        • To be clear, is the amount in the vaccine, 100 μg (that is .0001 grams) greater or less than the amount that is usually in the human body due to normal cell metabolism?

          Also, in the part you cut and pasted from the PlosOne paper did not mention the total amount, just the concentrations. Please tell us the total put into the animals and then scale that up to humans. Then tell us if it is higher or lower than the the amount in the vaccines. Thank you.

          • to make this clear, if the body makes this naturally then im sure it produces the amount required, for what it does. if you put more into the body, add that to what is naturally being produced, its going to be MORE than the body needs. it produces the amount required so any EXTRA is TOO MUCH. is that simple enough for us all to understand?? i think so even the child would understand.

          • “to make this clear, if the body makes this naturally then im sure it produces the amount required, for what it does.”

            Citation needed.

            ” if you put more into the body, add that to what is naturally being produced, its going to be MORE than the body needs.”

            Congratulations. You’ve just disproved the human requirement for additional food and oxygen. If we needed to eat or breathe, surely the human body would self-sufficiently produce it all on its own. So simple a child can understand it!

        • Yoo hoo! Kathy! What happened, where are the answers to my questions? I assumed you understood the paper that you posted several times on this blog.

          Really what is the difference between the nominal level of formaldehyde in humans due to normal cell metabolism versus the the amount that paper considered “intoxication”? And how do they compare to the levels in the vaccines? Please, these are important questions. Come back and answer them in your own words.

  7. [...] Vaccine Times:  “Formaldehyde fears without merit.” [...]

  8. Well, after furniture manufacturers may not use formaldehyde anymore due to its carcinogenic nature, I guess it must be fine to inject it into a newborn’s body. I wish you peace of mind when going to sleep with this knowledge!

    • Never mind that it’s already in a newborn’s body in greater doses than the vaccine (it is a normal product of metabolism).

      Always remember that the dose makes the poison.

  9. anon and chis = happy bumming boys

    • Why do you think insults are a valid form of evidence? Is there some reason you can only use the old and tired Pharma Shill Gambit? Is it related to your inability to find the shift key on your keyboard?

      Since I have had children become very ill with now vaccine preventable diseases, including one who required a trip by ambulance to the hospital and a baby get chicken pox (when I was still breast feeding her, so the “breast feeding to prevent diseases gambit” is completely wrong), I really need to you be honest and provide the following:

      The title, journal and date of the PubMed indexed journal that shows any vaccine on the American pediatric schedule is more dangerous than the disease or diseases it is intended for. This means giving real studies showing that the DTaP is worse than diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis (the latter killed a baby in my county last month, it kills over 200000 each year on this planet), or that the MMR is more dangerous than measles, mumps or rubella (note that Pakistan is reporting hundreds of deaths from measles). Make us believe you are educated and reply with those papers.

  10. Wondering if any of you guys have children? Have you had to make the decision about vaccinating? You risk injecting the child with a known toxin, or if you choose not to vaccinate the risk them becoming deaf from the measles, or paralyzed from polio, or perhaps death from the illness. There is also a possibility if your child is not vaccinated for such a disease as polio you can pass it on to others. As a parent you have to make the horrible decision of exposure to “known toxins at low levels” or the risk of other horrible outcomes of not vaccinating. I read a book “Vaccines What You Should Know” written by a couple of doctors. They lay out statistics that were helpful and how each vaccine is made, they also included mistakes that were made and the outcomes of those mistakes. I still did have to do additional research (which brought me to this page) but it really helped to learn where it all began. What I found is that there is no middle of the road when it comes to vaccines, you have to make a choice by weighing the risks of both sides. I also think there is no reason to be angry or to think the person on the other side is an idiot. I think that is a road none of us should go down, it gets us no where fast. Life is full of hard choices where there is risk on both sides, so try to be informed and make the best decisions for you and your family that you can with ALL the information available.

    • Yes, I have children. In the comment right above yours I wrote:

      Since I have had children become very ill with now vaccine preventable diseases, including one who required a trip by ambulance to the hospital and a baby get chicken pox (when I was still breast feeding her, so the “breast feeding to prevent diseases gambit” is completely wrong), I really need to you be honest and provide the following:

      The title, journal and date of the PubMed indexed journal that shows any vaccine on the American pediatric schedule is more dangerous than the disease or diseases it is intended for. This means giving real studies showing that the DTaP is worse than diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis (the latter killed a baby in my county last month, it kills over 200000 each year on this planet), or that the MMR is more dangerous than measles, mumps or rubella (note that Pakistan is reporting hundreds of deaths from measles). Make us believe you are educated and reply with those papers.


      Also, I will add: define what a real toxin is. Then use your research to tell us what ingredients in the DTaP vaccine is more dangerous than tetanospasmin, which one the toxins created by tetanus (the actual bacterial infection), along with the toxins created by pertussis and diphtheria.

    • But by all means pretend that you did not learn anything and keep assuming that those who defend the science of vaccines simply do so because their all childless fools who would understand your backwards beliefs if only we failed to use a condom and acquired the divine knowledge that comes in the mail upon becoming a parent for the first time.

      • I thought it was interesting that he asked if we had children right under my comment where I explained that my children have been affected by now vaccine preventable diseases. It was like he did not quite read the this page thoroughly.

        I also hate the “toxin gambit.” It was the neurotoxin tetanospasmin at the heart of this: ‘It was hideous’ – family’s tetanus agony. I really want someone to tell what in a vaccine is more toxic than that.

      • I apologize for not seeing your full comment. I am not a “he” I am a “she”. I did not post to be attacked. I am not certain what you want by me telling you what the definition of a “real toxin”. I stated “known toxin” because I have come across that several times when I read about vaccines when they include things such as formaldehyde. Formaldehyde being the know toxin they put into the vaccine to kill the virus or bacteria. I vaccinate my kids……………so I am not sure why you are demanding me to defend myself because it sounds like you agree to vaccinate??????????? (side note:I have never heard of breastfeeding preventing chicken pox, that is interesting.) I really just wanted to sympathize that the choice is difficult with the information you get being at two very opposite ideas. I am not a scientist, scholar, well educated college grad, or a great debater, but I know I am not stupid. I am just a mom who is trying to do the best for her family. I will not be posting again, nor on any other site for that matter. I get enough judgment and harsh words from daily life.

        • I did not attack you. I answered your question about having children, and added the fact one of mine had been injured by an actual disease. You voiced your question in a challenging way, implying that we did not know what it was like to have children. More often than not we get told we cannot voice an opinion unless we have autistic children (and they really do not like it that my son has autistic symptoms caused by seizures from an actual disease).

          It is also clear you do not know what a toxin is (a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms;[1][2] man-made substances created by artificial processes are thus excluded). Therefore tetanospasmin is a toxin, as it is created by the tetanus bacteria.

          Since formaldehyde is created by your body as part of cell metabolism, it can be a toxin, but that is where the dose is important. There is more in the food you eat (like fruit), and your body than in any vaccine.

          In order to make your decision you have to read the real evidence. That can be found at any public health department website, which almost every county, state and country has like:

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