Formaldehyde, a chemical sometimes found in vaccines, has many immunization-hesitant people concerned. Putting formaldehyde in your body may sound scary, but stay tuned because this chemical may surprise you.
Why is formaldehyde found in some vaccines?
Sometimes a killed (inactivated) form of the virus or bacterial toxin is used in the making of a vaccine. When a virus or bacterial toxin is inactivated, it is unable to make you sick when it’s introduced to the body. Scientists use formaldehyde to inactivate germs.
Surprise! Formaldehyde is found naturally in your body!
Your body produces formaldehyde during normal metabolic processes, and formaldehyde found inside you is either made by your body or obtained externally.
Formaldehyde is found in the environment. It’s a common chemical used in the production of resins and adhesives, some fabrics, foams, paper products, insulation, and it’s used to preserve dead tissues.
According to the NIH, the air we breathe is our primary source of exposure to formaldehyde. It comes from off-gassing from products like carpet, upholstery, and combustibles. It’s found in car exhaust, tobacco smoke, power plant smoke, forest fires, and wood stoves.
If you aren’t inhaling formaldehyde from the environment, you’re ingesting it. It’s in the soil, in our foods, in our drinking and bottled water, and surface and groundwater. It’s in apples, pears, carrots, milk. Sometimes it’s in our cosmetics.
Eating certain fruits, vegetables, or drinking fermented drinks that contain methanol breaks down in your body into many byproducts, including formaldehyde.
Your body NEEDS formaldehyde. If you don’t get it from the environment, your body will make it. The body makes formaldehyde when demethylating DNA (a process used to control gene expression). It makes it just to break it down. When it is broken down, it’s products are used to synthesize DNA, mediate hormone signaling, and aid in energy transfer.
Your body doesn’t distinguish one molecule of formaldehyde from another. No matter where it comes from–your carpet, an apple, a vaccine–it’s all the same. It also doesn’t discriminate when breaking it down. Your body can get rid of excess amounts that would be toxic, and it’s all broken down into byproducts and then excreted in the same way. Formaldehyde is eliminated as formate in the urine or breathed out as CO2.
Excessive amounts may be very harmful. This is most common in people who use formaldehyde in large quantities for long periods of time. Cancer in these people are found in tissues of the respiratory pathways due to excessive inhalation of formaldehyde. However, there is very little data to back even this up.
There is no evidence that the trace amounts of formaldehyde in vaccines lead to cancers. Any side effects due to short term low-level exposure are reversible. (2)
You do not need to worry about formaldehyde building up in your body or accumulating in your children after multiple vaccinations. The trace amounts injected are eliminated rapidly within hours.
If you’re still concerned, the most formaldehyde your child will ever get from vaccinations will occur at the 6-month check-up. The vaccines with formaldehyde include the HepB, DTaP, IPV, and sometimes the influenza vaccine. If your child gets these four vaccines all at once, the amount of formaldehyde will be around 307.5μg. This amount is 160 times less than the total amount their body naturally produces every single day. (Compare that to the 428.4-1,516.4μg of formaldehyde in a single apple.)(4)
So, there you have it. A chemical that once sounded pretty frightening doesn’t have to be so scary anymore.
Without formaldehyde, you’d actually be dead. (And not well preserved, might I add.)
1. “Common Ingredients in U.S. Vaccines.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. U.S. Department of Human Health and Services. www.fda.gov
2. Vaccine Education Center. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. http://vec.chop.edu
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov
4. Harpocrates Speaks. www.harpocratesspeaks.com