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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Update

Air Date: Week of

Anna Solomon-Greenbaum reports on a new study that looks at the potential downside of a vaccine that’s given to newborns.


SOLOMON-GREENBAUM: All newborns in the U.S. receive a hepatitis-B vaccine, usually within the first few days of life. And up until recently, all those vaccines contained thimerosal, a preservative derived from mercury. A study recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that after getting this shot, premature infants had more than three times the level of mercury in their system compared to normal weight babies. Since mercury is a neurotoxin, the researchers worried about its effects on preemies, who are at a greater risk for neurological disorders. And an advance release of the study started controversy. Thimerosal was used in many U.S. hospitals from 1986 until 1999, when manufacturers decided to remove it from their hepatitis-B vaccines, at least for newborns. Although they're being phased out here, sales of hepatitis-B vaccines with the mercury-derived preservative are expected to continue overseas. And that's this week's Living on Earth health update. I'm Anna Solomon-Greenbaum.



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