This image about vaccine ingredients is extremely misleading

26 April 2019
What was claimed

Aluminium is in vaccines and is linked to Alzheimer’s, dementia, seizures, autoimmune diseases, SIDs and cancer. Aluminium can accumulate in the brain and cause more damage with each dose.

Our verdict

There is no evidence that aluminium build up in the brain causes the disease. Studies show that the amount of aluminium we can get from vaccines (and food) is not enough to be unsafe.

What was claimed

Beta-Propiolactone is in vaccines and is known to cause cancer, suspected gastrointestinal, liver, nerve and respiratory, skin and sense organ poison.

Our verdict

It may be present in trace amounts of some vaccines. It is potentially carcinogenic, but only in much larger amounts than would be in a vaccine.

What was claimed

The antibiotics gentamicin sulfate and polymyxin b are in vaccines and can cause allergic reactions ranging from mild to life-threatening.

Our verdict

Traces of these antibiotics can end up in certain vaccines, but would only cause a reaction in someone severely allergic.

What was claimed

Genetically modified yeast, animal, bacterial and viral DNA in vaccines can be incorporated into the recipient’s DNA causing unknown genetic mutations.

Our verdict

Modified DNA can be used in the production of some vaccines, but is very unlikely to end up in the final product. Even if it did, there’s no evidence it can cause mutations.

What was claimed

Glutaraldehyde is in vaccines and is poisonous if ingested and causes birth defects in animals.

Our verdict

There are trace amounts in some vaccines from manufacturing, and not enough to cause harm.

What was claimed

Formaldehyde is in vaccines and causes cancer in humans among other issues and is banned from vaccines in most European countries.

Our verdict

It’s not banned in Europe. There are only trace amounts in certain vaccines and not enough to be carcinogenic.

What was claimed

Latex rubber is in vaccines and causes life-threatening allergic reactions.

Our verdict

Latex is used in the packaging of some vaccines, which could potentially cause harm if someone’s strongly allergic to it.

What was claimed

Human and animal cells from sources like aborted foetuses are in vaccines and are linked to childhood leukaemia and diabetes.

Our verdict

They may be used in certain vaccines’ production, but are unlikely to make it to the final product.

What was claimed

Mercury (aka thimerosal or thiomersal) is in vaccines and can damage brain, gut, liver, bone marrow, nervous system and kidneys, is linked to autoimmune disorder, autism.

Our verdict

Thiomersal isn’t in any UK vaccines any more. This is down to concern around a slightly different mercury-based chemical.

What was claimed

MSG is in vaccines and is linked to birth defects, developmental delays, infertility and is banned in Europe.

Our verdict

It’s not banned in Europe. It’s used in some vaccines to stabilise them. There’s no strong evidence it causes these problems in humans.

What was claimed

Neomycin sulphate, an antibiotic, is in vaccines and can lead to epilepsy, brain damage and allergic reactions.

Our verdict

Trace amounts of this antibiotic may end up in certain vaccines. If you are allergic to it could cause an allergic reaction.

What was claimed

Phenol / phenoxyethanol is in vaccines and is used as antifreeze. It is toxic to all cells and can destroy the immune system.

Our verdict

These chemicals have been used in vaccines as preservatives. They are not in antifreeze.

What was claimed

Polysorbate 80 and 20 are in vaccines and cause cancer in animals and are linked to autoimmune issues and infertility.

Our verdict

Tiny amounts of Polysorbate 80 is in a type of flu vaccine. There isn’t evidence ingesting it is linked to these issues in humans.

What was claimed

Tri(n) butylphosphate is in vaccines and is potentially damaging to the kidneys and the nervous system.

Our verdict

We can find no evidence of this being used in vaccines in the UK.

Note: the information in this article refers to vaccines in the UK, unless otherwise stated.

A picture claiming to list vaccine ingredients and health problems they’re linked to has been shared on Facebook.

“None of these should be injected into your body”.

Facebook user, 19 February 2019

Although some of the chemicals listed are present in vaccines, or are used in their production, none are at high enough levels in vaccines to do harm. If you have a serious allergy to something like latex or certain antibiotics, vaccines containing those chemicals may cause a serious reaction. Someone with an allergy would also get this reaction if they used a latex product, or were put on that specific antibiotic for the first time.

Some of the health issues listed in the image have been observed in studies using animals, or have known side-effects in humans. But this is only in much higher concentrations than would ever be present in vaccines.

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“Known to cause brain damage at all doses, linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, seizures, automimmune issues, SIDs and cancer. This toxin accumulates in the brain and causes more damage with each dose”.

Aluminium salts are in many vaccines (for example, the HPV vaccine) for a variety of reasons. According to the Vaccine Knowledge Project at the University of Oxford (a group of consultants, researchers, nurses and statisticians looking at vaccines at the university’s Department of Paediatrics) aluminium salts “slow down the release of the active ingredient from the vaccine once it is injected, and stimulate the immune system to respond.”

Most experts agree that there isn’t strong enough evidence to show aluminium can cause Alzheimer’s. Aluminium and other metals are also seen in healthy brains.

Aluminium is present in all sort of things naturally, like food and drinking water, and aluminium salts are a common food additive. Most of it we excrete. A 2018 study measured aluminium levels in blood and hair samples of babies and found there was no correlation between the aluminium levels and how many vaccines they’d had.

Other studies have shown aluminium from food and vaccines doesn’t cause unsafe build up.


“Known to cause CANCER. Suspected gastrointestinal, liver, nerve and respiratory, skin and sense organ POISON.”

This chemical, in a vapour form, is used to disinfect vaccines, as well as to clean surgical equipment. It may be present in trace amounts (leftover from the manufacturing process) in some UK vaccines, like the flu jab Flucelvax and the rabies vaccine.

There are other side effects the chemical can cause, but only if someone is exposed to it in much larger amounts than would ever end up in a vaccine. These can range from irritation to the eyes and skin to burns, and there’s a possibility it can cause cancer in humans, although these effects have only been seen in studies on rodents.

Gentamicin sulphate & polymyxin B [Antibiotics]

“ALLERGIC reactions can range from mild to life-threatening.”

These two chemicals are antibiotics, which are used in the production of vaccines to stop bacteria growing in them.

Because of this, only trace amounts of these can end up in vaccines (for example tiny amounts of both gentamicin and polymyxin b may be in the inactivated flu vaccine).

These are harmless, unless of course, you are allergic to them. Antibiotics most likely to cause allergic reactions, like penicillin, aren’t used in vaccine production.

Allergies can cause a wide range of reactions. The NHS says “Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur. This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.”

Genetically modified yeast, animal, bacterial and Viral DNA

“Can be incorporated into the recipient’s DNA and cause unknown GENETIC MUTATIONS.”

Yeast is used to make the HPV vaccine Gardasil, which is used in the UK, but there’s no yeast in the actual vaccine. That means it’s safe even for those who are allergic to yeast.

When the image claims that there’s genetically modified DNA in vaccines, we think it means recombinant DNA technology. This is where some of the DNA of the virus or bacteria causing the disease in question is snipped out and put into another cell, for example a yeast cell. This hybrid cell makes large amounts of the protein or sugar which are used in the vaccine. The sugars and proteins are usually a harmless bit of the virus or bacteria’s outer layer, which the body recognises and fights if you get the actual disease in future.

The DNA itself isn’t likely to get into the vaccine. And even if it did, there’s no evidence that it can cause “unknown genetic mutations” in humans, because DNA from the vaccine can’t simply insert itself into a person’s DNA.


“Poisonous if ingested. Causes BIRTH DEFECTS in animals.”

Glutaraldehyde is a used in the manufacture of some vaccines to inactivate potentially harmful chemicals released by bacteria. It’s only present in trace amounts in these vaccines, such as the pre-school booster vaccine, and not enough to do any harm.


“Known to cause CANCER in humans. Probable gastrointestinal, liver, respiratory, immune, nerve and reproductive system POISON. Banned from injectables in most European countries.”

The Vaccine Knowledge Project says that the amount of natural formaldehyde in a two month-old’s blood is around ten times greater than the amount found in any vaccine.

Formaldehyde is carcinogenic and can cause skin and eye damage, but only in certain concentrations. It’s not banned in Europe, but the EU is moving to limit workers’ exposure to it, which would affect those working the funeral industry amongst others.

There may be trace amounts in the Hepatitis B vaccine, where it’s used during production to kill the virus. The amount that could end up in vaccines is not high enough to be dangerous though.

Latex Rubber

“Can cause life-threatening allergic reactions.”

Latex can be used in the packaging of certain vaccines. This can potentially cause harm, but only to those with serious latex allergies.

Human and animal cells

“Linked to childhood leukemia and diabetes.”

Human or animal cells are sometimes the best way to grow a virus needed to make the vaccine, but these cells are unlikely to make it to the final vaccine.

In the UK human cells are used to grow the viruses for the rubella part of the MMR vaccines, the shingles vaccine, and the chicken pox vaccines. The cells used for these originate from the lung cells taken in the 1960s from two aborted foetuses. The Vaccine Knowledge Project says the abortions were not done to develop vaccines, they were legal and agreed to by the women concerned.

Mercury [thimerosal]

“Tiny doses cause damage to the brain, gut, liver, bone marrow, nervous system and/or kidneys. Linked to autoimmune disorders, and neurological disorders like AUTISM.”

Thiomersal (also known as thimerosal) is a mercury-based chemical, which is no longer found in most standard UK vaccines. It was removed “as a precaution”, according to the Vaccine Knowledge Project, and there was no evidence it caused harm.

There has been concern around a slightly different mercury-based chemical, which can build up in humans. But a study has shown the mercury in thiomersal itself does not appear to collect in the human body.

A large Australian study in 2016 found no link between thiomersal in vaccines and developing autism.


“A toxic chemical that is linked to birth defects, developmental delays and infertility. Banned in Europe.”

Monosodium glutamate has not been banned in Europe, and is a flavouring safe to use in food. It’s used in small amounts in some vaccines to stabilise them, protecting them from things like temperature change.

In a study looking at rat fertility and MSG consumption (not injections), the authors found there was some negative impact on the rats’ fertility. But they also concluded there needed to be more research to confirm the link. We’ve not found any studies that prove MSG causes birth defects or development issues in humans.

Neomycin Sulphate

“Interferes with vitamin B6 absorption which can lead to epilepsy and brain damage. Allergic reactions can range from mild to life-threatening”

This is another antibiotic, which it is possible to be allergic to, which may be present in trace amounts in certain vaccines.

Taking this as an antibiotic does have potential side effects, but epilepsy and brain damage aren’t listed among them.

There is some evidence that being on a course of the antibiotic can affect Vitamin B6 levels, and some patients having seizures have been treated with vitamin B6. Only people taking neomycin for more than a few days usually need to take Vitamin B6 supplements.


“Used as anti-freeze. TOXIC to all cells and capable of destroying the immune system.”

These two chemicals have been used as preservatives in some vaccines. They aren’t the same as any of the standard chemicals mixed with water to create antifreeze for engines though. There are other chemicals that are present in antifreeze which may have caused confusion with vaccines.

Ethylene glycol is what is commonly used in antifreeze. Polyethylene glycol, which sounds similar but isn’t the same thing, is sometimes an ingredient in antifreeze and is used in some vaccines but is safe in these quantities. It’s also used higher concentrations as a laxative.

Polysorbate 80 & 20

“Known to cause CANCER in animals and linked to numerous autoimmune issues and infertility.”

Polysorbate 80 is present in tiny amounts in the flu vaccine Fluad, amongst others, to stop the vaccine separating into its component parts. It’s also used as a food additive in things like ice cream. Polysorbate 20 is present in certain vaccines too.

In a study where mice were given large amounts of polysorbate 80 and then colon cancer was induced, the mice given the additive were found to have more developed tumours. These animal results aren’t directly applicable to humans though. Relatively, the mice were given more of polysorbate 80 than humans would ever eat, let alone than would be present in vaccines.

Tri(n) Butylphosphate

“Potentially toxic to the kidney and nervous system.”

We can’t find evidence that this is present in any UK vaccines, although it is used in some injected medicines to treat haemophilia.

When the EU was reviewing the chemical in 2013 it said studies on whether it damaged the nervous system were “contradictory”. It also said “some studies suggest that tributyl phosphate might have adverse effects on [the] kidney”.

A 2012 report into its safety found evidence people working with the chemical had reported some nausea, headaches and irritation, but they were exposed to it in larger concentrations that would be present in medicines.

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