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Vaccines, Autism, and Aluminum: A Disturbing Connection

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

The vaccine and autism debate is as strong and healthy as ever. Both sides are extremely vocal concerning the causes of autism, the efficacy and safety of vaccines and the transmission of communicable diseases.

Many vaccine proponents believe that those who oppose vaccination are uneducated or misguided while those opposing vaccination believe that the ingredients in vaccines make them a hazard instead of a helper to health.

Who is right?

Are vaccine opponents misguided or, even worse, irresponsible for not vaccinating their children? Are there really some ingredients in vaccines that may have cause for concern?

Are there any that can be potentially hazardous to health? Is there any research that might support this idea?

In this post we will take a look at the disturbing connection between a certain ingredient found in many vaccines: aluminum.

Is Aluminum Really an Ingredient in Vaccines?

When you think of aluminum what comes to mind? It's usually a canned beverage or the foil you use to preserve your left overs right?

While you're most certainly correct to think of these products, aluminum is actually a naturally occurring metal found in the crust of the Earth. In fact, it is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust and it is highly reactive. Since it is so reactive, it is never found alone in nature. It usually binds with oxygen, silicon, and/or fluorine.

Although aluminum isn't a very heavy metal, it is extremely strong. With it's unique properties and apparent abundance, it is used in a wide variety of industries like construction, electronics, and pharmaceuticals which includes vaccines.

When discussing vaccines, one must remember that the weakened virus or bacteria is not the only ingredient. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC maintains a list of vaccine ingredients provided by the manufacturer of each vaccine.

When looking over the list, you can quickly see that a great deal of vaccines have questionable ingredients which includes aluminum phosphate or aluminum hydroxide.

Aluminum phosphate has a wide variety of uses in different industries from dyes to aiding in petroleum production. Meanwhile, aluminum hydroxide is primarily used as an antacid to treat heartburn, upset stomach, and indigestion.

Interesting enough, aluminum phosphate is considered to be toxic with mild symptoms ranging from skin irritation to severe symptoms like eye burns and respiratory damage[1]. Aluminum hydroxide seems to be safer in that it is only shown to cause serious eye damage[2].

Why is Aluminum Used in Vaccines?

So if these chemicals are toxic, or at the very least, irritants, then why is aluminum used in vaccines? This is a very good question. Aluminum is used in many vaccines as an adjuvant.

When vaccines are being manufactured, a number of different ingredients are used to create the final product. Although it may seem like the vaccine being administered to your child is just a vial of sterile water with perhaps a weakened virus or two inside, the reality is very different.

When you get a viral or bacterial infection naturally, the foreign invader or pathogen, gets into the body through various methods. This may be through damaged mucous membranes in the mouth and nose or through the intestines with food breakdown and absorption.

Once inside the body, the immune system recognizes the invader as foreign due to the proteins present on many viruses and bacteria. These proteins are called antigens as they are recognized as not being a part of the body or "Non-self" by the immune system.

When these foreign proteins, or antigens, bind to special defense cells in the body, a series of events bring about processes to destroy the invader.

The virus or the bacteria is then eradicated from the body and health is restored.

So how does an adjuvant fit into all of this?

The Role of The Adjuvant

An adjuvant is something used to call attention to the immune system and stimulate it into giving a more vigorous response to an antigen. The word adjuvant comes from the Latin word adjuvare, which means to help.

Adjuvants were discovered by Gaston Ramon, a French veterinarian, who noticed that tetanus and diphtheria anti-sera were produced in higher yield from animals that developed an abscess at the site of injection. Ramon began injecting starch, breadcrumbs, and tapioca into animals to create sterile abscesses that yielded more anti-serum. Around the same time Alexander Glenny, while working in London, discovered the immune enhancing effects of aluminum salts[3].

Aluminum was the first adjuvant used in vaccines meant for human injection in 1932. It was the only adjuvant used in licensed human vaccines for approximately 70 years[3].

Adjuvants are used in vaccines for a number of reasons. These include: increasing the vaccine response of the general population, increasing the immune response to an antigen in populations that usually have reduced immune responses like infants and the elderly, to be able to use smaller doses of the actual antigen being vaccinated against, and to allow for lower doses of a single vaccine to be given[4].


Clearly, adjuvants play a significant role in the manufacturing of vaccines and the strengthening of their intended immune response.

So What's the Big Deal?

When presented with aluminum in vaccines, most vaccine proponents might ask "what's the big deal?" We've been using aluminum adjuvants for decades. The forms of aluminum used as adjuvants seem to be extremely effective in producing an immune response in vaccines. Besides, the average adult in the United States eats about 7-9 milligrams (mg) of aluminum in their food daily[5].

While unprocessed foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat have very little aluminum in them naturally, aluminum can be found in many processed foods like certain flours and baking powder. It is also used as a coloring agent as well as an anti-caking agent.

Even pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications like antacids have aluminum in them. An average antacid can have 300-600 mg of aluminum hydroxide in it. This comes out to be 104-208 mg of aluminum per tablet or per 5 milliliter (ml) liquid dose. Even aspirin has aluminum and may contain 10-20mg per one tablet dose.

The amount of aluminum in an average vaccine dose usually doesn't exceed 0.85 mg. So why would aluminum in vaccines be a cause for concern?

That's a great question and the answer comes down to increased exposure and absorption into the blood stream.

When aluminum adjuvants were first introduced in the 1930s, there was no set vaccination schedule and few people were vaccinated against the diseases of the day. Although vaccines for smallpox, diphtheria, pertussis, and typhoid were available, the only vaccine that was routinely recommended by physicians in the US was the typhoid vaccine[6].

The typhoid vaccine, which became commonplace in 1914, had no aluminum adjuvants just like the other vaccines of the day.

It is interesting to note that autism was first described in the 1930s as a "novel clinical disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication..."[7]. Could it be that the introduction of the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines around this time contributed to the symptoms of autism described in these patients in early medical literature?

There are those who say that autism rates aren't increasing but just being recognized and diagnosed earlier. Research suggests that this just isn't true[7]. In fact, research shows that there has been an increase in autism since the late 1980s and suggests it is due to environmental toxins including, but not limited to, aluminum adjuvants[7].

What changed about the vaccine schedule in the late 80s? The pictures below contrast the vaccine schedule of the past with the recommended vaccines schedule of today. The first one is from 1994 and the second one is from 2017. Compare these two schedules shows that the schedule of 2017 is considerably larger in the type of pathogen vaccinated against and the number of doses needed.

CDC vaccine schedule 1994

CDC vaccine schedule 2017

Of all the vaccines recommended on the CDC schedule from birth to age 15 months, 6 of the 10 vaccines have aluminum as an ingredient: Hepatitis B, DTap, Hemophilus influenza (only the Pedvax variation), hepatitis A, and pneumococcal conjugate.

Each of these vaccines are given in multiple doses with some vaccines, such as pneumococcal conjugate, being administered in 4 doses. With each dose injected more pathogen along with the aluminum adjuvant is introduced directly into the blood stream.

This is a very different way of introducing aluminum into the body than eating food with aluminum in it.

Very little of the aluminum introduced into the body by way of diet actually gets absorbed into the blood stream. The majority of the aluminum you ingest usually gets excreted out with defecation. Conventional wisdom has suggested that the aluminum that enters into the blood steam is usually excreted quickly and almost completely through the urine with no adverse effects but what does the research say?

Adverse Effects of Aluminum in Vaccines

There hasn't been very good research surrounding the mechanism of aluminum adjuvants let alone their elimination from the body. An analysis of an animal study examining prior research concerning aluminum adjuvant elimination showed that 28 days after injection of aluminum adjuvant only 6% of aluminum hydroxide and 22% of aluminum phosphate was excreted through urine[8].

This is hardly the "close to 100%" figure that conventional wisdoms and vaccine advocates suggests.

For those who believe that there are no documented adverse effects of vaccination with aluminum, the research shows that this just isn't the case.

There are numerous studies that describe intense itchy nodules developing on children who were vaccinated with aluminum adjuvants. These children also developed an aluminum allergy after vaccination[9,10].

There are also cases of autoimmune disorders due to adjuvant exposure. This disorder is actually diagnosed as Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvant or ASIA[11].

Most disturbingly, in a study of the brain tissue of 5 individuals with autism, a high amount of aluminum was discovered in the non-neuronal or non-nerve cells of the brain. Instead, the aluminum was found in the microglial cells of the nervous system[12].

The purpose of these microglial cells is to mediate the immune response of the nervous system by cleaning up cellular debris by way of phagocytosis, or cellular eating. Had aluminum been present in these cells all along or did these microglial cells try to clean up aluminum that entered into the brain by way of the bloodstream through vaccination?

The answer to this question could be found in a condition called macrophagic myofasciitis or MMF. MMF is a disorder characterized by diffuse muscle aches and pains and chronic fatigue. Sometimes joint pain may be present. Patients also complain of memory loss, brain fog, and mood changes.

In the muscle biopsy of the deltoid or shoulder muscle of adults suffering from MMF, aluminum was found in the cells. The only aluminum exposure these individuals had was intramuscular vaccination and the vaccines had been administered as long as over 5 years ago[13].

But if the aluminum laden vaccine was injected into the muscle, how did it reach the brain? The aluminum reached the brain through macrophages or eating cells which then went into the blood stream and subsequently the brain. Animal studies show that aluminum was able to enter the brain of mice with altered blood brain barriers and/or genetic differences[13]. Could it be the same with people?

A very introspective study suggests that autism is on the rise and that children who receive the most aluminum adjuvants by way of vaccine suffer from the highest rates of autism[14]. If this is indeed the case, or even a possibility, then shouldn't we demand more research into the safety and mechanism of aluminum adjuvants? Shouldn't we exercise caution when using these chemicals in our vaccines?

Shouldn't we be quick to ask questions and look for answers? Shouldn't we be slow to act when it comes to using these powerful immune stimulating substances that we still know too little about? Shouldn't we devote our time and resources to investigating whether aluminum is causing autism given that it is a known neurotoxin?

After all, if we've got it wrong when it comes to using aluminum adjuvants, the ones who will pay the highest price are the very same ones that we should have protected , our children.




3. Di Pasquale A, Preiss S, Tavares Da Silva F, Garçon N. Vaccine Adjuvants: from 1920 to 2015 and Beyond. Harper DM, ed. Vaccines. 2015;3(2):320-343. doi:10.3390/vaccines3020320

4.Coffman RL, Sher A, Seder RA. Vaccine Adjuvants: Putting Innate Immunity to Work. Immunity. 2010;33(4):492-503. doi:10.1016/j.immuni.2010.10.002.



7.Nevison CD. A comparison of temporal trends in United States autism prevalence to trends in suspected environmental factors. Environmental Health. 2014;13:73. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-13-73.

8. Masson J, Crépeaux G, Authier F, Exley C, Gherardi R. Critical analysis of reference studies on the toxicokinetics of aluminum-based adjuvants. J Inorg Biochem. 2018;181:87-95. doi:10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2017.12.015.

9.Bergfors E, Trollfors B. Sixty-four children with persistent itching nodules and contact allergy to aluminium after vaccination with aluminium-adsorbed vaccines—prognosis and outcome after booster vaccination. Eur J Pediatr. 2012;172(2):171-177. doi:10.1007/s00431-012-1841-2.

10.Raison-Peyron N, Genillier-Foin N, Bessis D, Milpied B. Atypical aluminium patch tests in children with persistent itching postvaccinal nodules. Pediatr Dermatol. 2018. doi:10.1111/pde.13481.

11.Segal Y, Dahan S, Sharif K, Bragazzi N, Watad A, Amital H. The value of Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvant (ASIA) - Shedding light on orphan diseases in autoimmunity. Autoimmun Rev. 2018;17(5):440-448. doi:10.1016/j.autrev.2017.11.037.

12.Mold M, Umar D, King A, Exley C. Aluminium in brain tissue in autism. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 2018;46:76-82. doi:10.1016/j.jtemb.2017.11.012.

13.Gherardi RK, Eidi H, Crépeaux G, Authier FJ, Cadusseau J. Biopersistence and Brain Translocation of Aluminum Adjuvants of Vaccines. Frontiers in Neurology. 2015;6:4. doi:10.3389/fneur.2015.00004.

14.Tomljenovic L, Shaw C. Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism?. J Inorg Biochem. 2011;105(11):1489-1499. doi:10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2011.08.008.

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