Aluminium Scare, is it Poisoning Vaccines?

Concerns about human aluminium poisoning through food and medicine additives, a controversy that dates back more than 40 years, have been reignited by a Paris medical research team from the INSERM medical institute, worried about aluminium salts in vaccines.

3 oct 2010

Prof Romain Gherardi of INSERM, Paris heads a team with concerns over possible adverse neurological effects of aluminium adjuvants -- used to enhance vaccine effectiveness since 1926

A book Quand l’aluminium nous empoisonne, (When aluminium poisons us) by French journalist Virginie Belle and just published by Éditions Max Milo has cast a fresh spotlight on the issue. She says she is reflecting growing concerns in the medical profession about aluminum salts (hydroxide, phosphate and sulfate) and is happy to act as the spokesman for “the many scientists who are alarmed by the fact that they seem to be preaching in the desert when they raise the issue with official health agencies.”

So are aluminium adjuvants a proven health hazard? That is what the author seeks to establish. She highlights studies that support her assertion that the metal, which plays no role in nor is of any interest to the human body, is thought to be a cause of cancer and neurological diseases.

Her book is based on the findings of the team at the INSERM laboratory – as yet unpublished – which suggests the existence of a possible “adjuvants syndrome ” related to the use of aluminum salts in vaccines. According to Professor Romain Gherardi head of the research team at the U955 lab based in Creteil, Paris , nanoparticles of aluminum in vaccines, injected into muscle, migrate slowly but surely to the brain, where, as we have previously thought they were gradually removed through the urine. But he adds we know from research done in the 1970s that aluminium is neurotoxic, that is, it is harmful to the brain. (Adjuvants are an immunological agent added to a vaccine to increase the antigenic response.)

Professor Romain Gherardi’s team operates from a lab jointly set up by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm) and the Université Paris Est Créteil Val de Marne, l’Institut Mondor de Recherche Biomédicale (IMRB). It is home to 14 mixed teams of researchers.

Aluminium hydroxide is present as an adjuvant in thirty vaccines to enhance their action. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends patients not to exceed the limit of 1.25 mg per dose and has in the past six years, acknowledged that their “safe use is important and neglected”. Yet it remains difficult to navigate the dosage instructions currently listed on vaccine labels.

To date, no studies on the concerns now raised have successfully obtained funding. Professors Roman Ghérardi and Patrick Cherin, muscle disease specialists at La Pitie-Salpetriere, Paris, and Hôpital Henri Mondor, Créteil, began making demands for more research into the issue in 1993.

That year, following up a biopsy of the deltoid (shoulder) on patients complaining of widespread pain throughout the body, cognitive impairment and fatigue syndrome, they found black spots: the hydroxide aluminum, and a disease they called “myofasciitis macrophages “.

To date, they have identified a thousand cases, all involving patients who have been vaccinated.

Recent experiments completed by the Ghérardi team at Inserm show that the aluminum particles pass from the muscle to the brain: seen as evidence of its toxicity and its responsibility in causing the pathology.

These results, which are to be published shortly, will, hope the two medical professors, prompt a surge of interest from the health authorities.

“We have continued our research work despite the advice of our scientific research committee not to pursue studies on the subject and we have received no formal budgeted funding “, said Anne Castot , head of supervision at AFSSAPS – Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé, the agency that approves pharmaceuticals prior to release on the market.

Asked to comment the Aluminium Trade Association’s medical officer, Bruno Bucle said only that the industry adheres to the advice issued by AFSSAPS.

Aluminium writes Virginie Belle in her book, is everywhere and, more often than not without our knowledge. It is present in products used in the food industry, cosmetics, in pharmaceuticals (including vaccines) and sometimes even in tap water , an additive designed to make it clearer.

Asked by Chloe Durand-Parenti writing in Le Point magazine, for his views on the latest research concerns, Professor Peter Bégué, member of the Academy of Medicine and a pediatrician, warned against generating public panic about vaccines. He said “there is no reason to worry people about a product (the adjuvant) that is well known and monitored. There has, to date, been no evidence of any risk related to the aluminum adjuvant.” The scientist said his fears were about uneccsary panic, especially among parents of young children. “The risk is that this would lead to lower immunization coverage and see real disease outbreaks such as whooping cough or diphtheria, grow,” he said.

The French Agency for Food Standards and Safety is expected to publish is own position on the latest INSERM concerns shortly.

Earlier in 2003, AFSSA and the National Institute of Health Surveillance (INVS) had both addressed the issue and their joint report concluded that there was no basis to the claims that “aluminum exposure via water, food or health products at the doses usually consumed by the French population, could be associated with any increased risk”.

Aluminium is absorbed from the air we breathe, the soils we grow our food in and is concentrated in certain vegetables and in river water.

“But there is no use for it in the human organism. Worse, at high or regular doses, it is toxic, ” says Guy Berthon, a former research director at CNRS-Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, chemical laboratory. This specialist recommends consumers not to use products that contain aluminium: the increasingly popular coffee capsules, gastric bandages – which relieve pain but dissolve aluminum oxide in the body -, cooking trays and other kitchen pots, pans and utensils …

As for aluminium beer and soda cans: “it is best to consume as little as possible and not keep drinks in them for long periods “, says M. Berthon. He calls for vigilance even with the use of sunscreens and antiperspirant, which are suspected to be related to the appearance of some breast cancers, near the armpit.

“If aluminum were not under suspicion, why do some products make a strong point of advertising themselves as ‘non-aluminum’?” he asks.

Commonly used in cooking but is it safe?

“The worst offence,” says an indignant M. Berthon, is using aluminium in our tap water, it’s criminal, and remember that anything in excess of 100 micrograms per litre is dangerous.”

However, with the exception of Paris – which for the past 30 years has used iron in water treatment – drinking water suppliers add aluminium salts to make the water clearer.

According to the French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA) in 2007, 2.7 million French people drunk water containing aluminum salt levels above the recommended European standard. The danger is that “if in part it is naturally eliminated by the urine or the gut barrier, “says Berthon, some of it passes through the brick wall that is the small intestine and is found in the blood then in the brain. Here, aluminum is deposited, and can not go back. ”

Several studies have highlighted the link between aluminium overloaded drinking water and some cases of dementia, symptoms reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease .

But these same studies, including some using epidemiological methods have yet to be considered relevant, including a report from the Institute for Public Health in 2003, which was filed away .

In 1976 , cases of dementia, joint pain, bone decalcification and anemia had occurred among patients unergoing renal dialysis. Virginie Belle writes that many doctors and researchers have fostered investigations related to the adverse impact of aluminium and what she calls the “omerta of health authorities” is suspicious.

Story: Ken Pottinger