My examination of the “85,000 chemicals” objections to early childhood immunization

Looking into a baffling clause in a naturopath’s essay promoting delaying immunizations for two years, in the Ashland Daily Tidings, here’s my critical analysis.

The excerpt: “….another problem is kids are exposed to other chemicals that can act in concert with vaccines. With 85,000 man-made chemicals, this can be a real concern.” Full essay by Bonnie Nedrow in the Ashland Daily Tidings.

This is part of the “too many too soon” and “chemical overload” argument, which some vaccine defenders call “the toxicity gambit,” or moving the anti-vaccine goal-post – from MMR to thimerosal/mercury to aluminum and now: all chemicals combined.

The reference to 85,000 man-made chemicals  (precise numbers may vary) pertains to the EPA’s reported registered synthetic chemicals inventoried under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); most are said to have no or inadequate toxicology testing.

Looking at anti-vaccine websites that refer to this, their issue is based on the real and common phenomenon of “synergistic effects”, which describes how two or more components in a system can, when combined, have an impact much greater than the sum of the parts (either beneficial or harmful).

The vaccine critics’ claim is that vaccine chemicals (or other ingredients) are combining in the body with each other and with other environmental chemicals resulting in exponentially greater “synergistic toxicity” that damages a child’s brain and immune system. This is a counter-argument to vaccine defenders’ contention that vaccines contain just minute or trace levels of chemicals – saying they act in concert, or synergistically.

Several anti-vaccination websites claim that a rat study showed that an amount of lead and mercury (some say mercury and aluminum, and some say the study used human subjects) expected to kill one or fewer than 1:100 rats when administered separately ended up killing 100% of the rats when mixed.  Sometimes cited as the source of this study is a 1978 study by Jack Schubert, “Combined effects in toxicology‐a rapid systematic testing procedure: Cadmium, mercury, and lead.”  I don’t see this mentioned in the abstract, and the complete study doesn’t seem to be available anymore.   (I find it is commonplace for studies cited by vaccine critics to state nothing about or even the opposite of their contention, or to be unreplicated,  preliminary, weak or discredited studies. )  From what I can tell from the abstract, it is a paper describing a testing procedure to assess the toxicity (or lack thereof) of combined metals.

It appears to me that the dubious and discredited chemist Boyd Haley is the most oft cited source of the information that was purportedly derived from Schubert’s 1978 rat study.  You’d think that someone who raises alarms about very low levels of chemical exposure would never try to sell toxic chemicals to the public, especially for use by children; an article in the Chicago Tribune (among many other sources) had this to say about one of Boyd Haley’s products: “An industrial chemical developed to help separate heavy metals from polluted soil and mining drainage is being sold as a dietary supplement by a luminary in the world of alternative autism treatments.”

Here are just two sites spreading the propaganda about vaccine ingredients causing synergistic toxicity:



Some vaccine-critical websites wrongly contend that vaccinations aren’t studied in the context of previous or concomitant vaccinations. They say vaccines with their chemical ingredients are only studied separately, thus researchers miss unexpected synergistic toxicity from closely spaced vaccinations and in combination with environmental chemicals. They say the schedule as a whole has never been studied (truth be told, it hasn’t been studied in a RCT, as it would be unethical to withhold life-saving vaccines from the control group) and that it doesn’t consider the special chemical sensitivity of newborns and young children.

Meanwhile, while raising fears about vaccine ingredients, many naturopaths and like-minded alternative practitioners recommend dubious “provoked urine metals” testing and detoxification treatments to purportedly remove vaccine toxins e.g. lower bowel or other types of “cleansings,” IV or injected supplements, or chelation treatments – which ironically requires strong chemicals and can involve serious risk with no benefit. Many promote the superiority of natural infection over immunizations and recommend breastfeeding, homeopathy, herbal remedies or special diets as vaccine alternatives. Many vaccine critics claim evidence that unvaccinated children are healthier (another topic worthy of critical analysis).

My counter-arguments to the vaccine-critical chemical overload and toxicity argument:

  • Vaccines are studied, regulated, and surveilled extensively for safety purposes, and  study populations with previous and concomitant immunizations are included.
  • The preponderance of multiple large studies on real-life population show that vaccines are not causing brain inflammation or developmental problems. (Not to convey that vaccines are risk-free – very little in this world is – but rather are very low risk for any serious side-effects).
  • There is no credible evidence that vaccine ingredients create synergistic toxicity with each other or with environmental chemicals. Some vaccine chemicals (e,g, mercury and aluminum) are ubiquitous in nature, and fetuses, newborns, and young children are exposed to much greater quantities naturally without harm.
  • Anti-vaccinationists use scare-tactics about vaccine ingredients.
  • Remember the toxicologist’s mantra: “the dose makes the poison.” Vaccines contain just minute or trace amounts.
  • Becoming infected could involve hugely greater dangers than vaccinating and would likely involve many more chemicals in the drugs required to treat/save a very ill child.
  • Parents can prioritize: Given the ubiquity of chemicals substances and fetal, newborn, and young child exposure to them, give priority to immunizations for their protective benefits and low chemical exposure while reducing chemical exposure from other far more risky sources.
  • Parents should be wary of unnecessary and dubious metals testing promoted to make parents believe their child suffered a vaccine chemical overdose (or a synergistic reaction between vaccines and environmental chemicals) and avoid useless yet risky detoxification treatments such as chelation or colon cleansings that are promoted as remedies.
  • Several so-called natural alternatives to immunization impart a false sense of security. Homeopathy, herbal remedies, breastfeeding (although it can help with general immunity), and special diets will not prevent, reduce, or treat vaccine-targeted illnesses.
  • Natural immunity gained by contracting these illnesses can come with a huge price: intense suffering, hospitalization, disease complications and secondary infections, long-term injuries/disabilities, or death.  Even if a child suffers just a mild case, an infected child puts others at higher risk.


Excerpt: “FDA demands that vaccines undergo a rigorous and extensive development program in the laboratory, as well as in animal studies and human clinical trials, to determine their safety and effectiveness. Highly trained FDA scientists and clinicians carefully review all the information in a marketing application before approval and use by the public. Prior to licensure, as part of FDA’s review, FDA takes all the ingredients into account, including the active ingredients as well as other substances. After FDA approves a vaccine, FDA and CDC continuously monitor its safety.” ingredients&utm_content=1

“Facts About Childhood Vaccine Ingredients” PHRMA

“On-time Vaccine Receipt in the First Year Does Not Adversely Affect Neuropsychological Outcomes”

“Toxic Myths About Vaccines” by Dr. David Gorski

“Cashing in on the fear: the danger of Dr. Sears” by Dr. David Gorski

“Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and “Green Our Vaccines”: Anti-vaccine, not “pro-safe vaccine”

“Medical Toxicologists Determine Chelation Therapy Rarely Necessary” Quote: “It was concluded that incorrect diagnosis of metal poisoning is common, and inappropriate use of chelation therapy is widespread.”

“Asthma and Vaccines” by the National Network for Immunization Information

“Study Reports Aluminum in Vaccines Poses Extremely Low Risk to Infants”

“Exploring the Environmental Contributions of Autism” – “Dr. Landrigan has been a leader in developing the National Children’s Study, the largest study of children’s health and the environment ever launched in the United States.” [Note: While increasingly confident that environmental toxins may be causing autism, Dr. Philip Landrigan conveys that studies show vaccines do not cause autism.]

“Some Common Misconceptions about vaccination and how to respond to them” …”MISCONCEPTION #6. Giving a child multiple vaccinations for different diseases at the same time increases the risk of harmful side effects and can overload the immune system.”

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