Mercury: Health Hazards

Health written question – answered on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will commission research on the link between (a) the mercury content of amalgams and (b) the thiomersal content of some inoculations and progressive neurodegenerative diseases.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

Mercury amalgam has been in use for over 150 years to restore teeth in millions of patients and, apart from rare instances of hypersensitivity, no adverse reactions have been identified.

Recent reports from the European Union's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks and the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks are available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/scenihr_cons_07_en.htm and

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04__scher/scher_cons_02_en.htm

They support the United Kingdom Government's view that there is currently no need for regulation on mercury amalgam. The Government monitor compliance with provisions in the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 for the safe disposal of amalgam waste and research conducted on alternative restorative materials.

The vaccines used in the UK routine childhood immunisation programme do not contain thiomersal.

The Department has funded studies into the thiomersal content in vaccines and has found no link between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders. One such study was "Thiomersal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: A prospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association", Jon Heron, Jean Golding and the ALSPAC Study Team "Paediatrics 2004; 114; 577-583".

As with all medicinal products, vaccine safety is continually monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) with advice from the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM). The CHM and its Expert Advisory Groups have thoroughly reviewed the safety of thiomersal-containing vaccines. The advice of CHM/MHRA remains that there is no evidence of harm from the very small quantities of thiomersal contained in some vaccines, with the exception of possible allergic reactions (typically skin rashes or local swelling at the site of injection). This view concurs with that of the World Health Organization, the United States Institute of Medicine and the European Medicines Agency.

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