Mike Adams turns his mad science skillz to analyzing a flu vaccine. Hilarity ensues.


It's always jarring when I go to a scientific meeting, in this case the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, imbibe the latest clinical science on cancer, and then check back to see what the quacks are doing. On the other hand, there was a session at this year's ASCO on "integrative oncology" (stay tuned for an...Insolent...discussion of it sometime in the next few days after I get a chance to watch the videos again and look up the papers cited in support of woo), so maybe it isn't as jarring as it once was to come back into the real world.

Thus I saw in my Google Alerts this morning, as I was preparing to hit the road to head home from Chicago, this gem from one of the quackiest of the quacks, Mike Adams, a.k.a. The Health Ranger, a.k.a., "I'm a real scientist, dammit!" It's a post entitled EXCLUSIVE: Natural News tests flu vaccine for heavy metals, finds 25,000 times higher mercury level than EPA limit for water. You might remember that at the dawn of 2014 Mike Adams launched a canny marketing initiative in which he rebranded himself as a "food scientist." How did he accomplish this? He bought himself a mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), put it in a corner of a room that he calls his laboratory, a room that, mysteriously, we never see the rest of, with camera angles for all his videos in the lab being very tightly controlled such that we never see anything other than the ICP-MS, the sample loader, and the fume hood. It's not for nothing that I strongly suspect that there isn't a real "lab" there, but nothing more than a corner, perhaps in a warehouse or in a room being used for something else. Or maybe it's just a studio, with cameras permanently set up to focus on that corner of the room. If that weren't the case, why on earthy would Adams not show the rest of his "laboratory."

Sadly, Adams has been very successful using his equipment to generate numbers that let him trash his competitors in the supplement industry for having high levels of heavy metals in their supplements and even landed him an appearance on Dr. Oz's show, leading me to label Dr. Oz as "America's quack." Hilariously, he's finally turned his attention to vaccines, this time around looking at the mercury content in a flu vaccine:

Mercury tests conducted on vaccines at the Natural News Forensic Food Lab have revealed a shockingly high level of toxic mercury in an influenza vaccine (flu shot) made by GlaxoSmithKline (lot #9H2GX). Tests conducted via ICP-MS document mercury in the Flulaval vaccine at a shocking 51 parts per million, or over 25,000 times higher than the maximum contaminant level of inorganic mercury in drinking water set by the EPA.(1)

The tests were conducted via ICP-MS using a 4-point mercury calibration curve for accuracy. Even then, the extremely high level of mercury found in this flu shot was higher than anything we've ever tested, including tuna and ocean fish which are known for high mercury contamination.

In fact, the concentration of mercury found in this GSK flu shot was 100 times higher than the highest level of mercury we've ever tested in contaminated fish.

Adams then reports that he found 0.4 ppm aluminum in the FluLaval vaccine, to which I can only say, "Well, duh!" Similarly, it's not a coincidence that FluLaval is one of the flu vaccines remaining that still uses thimerosal as a preservative. You can even see this on the CDC website in its Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary. On that table, FluLaval is listed as containing thimerosal, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate, and egg proteins. Adams also notes that there is no arsenic, cadmium, or lead in the vaccine. Imagine my surprise. Why would there be. Actually, I was a bit surprised, because I figured that Adams would find heavy metals in everything.

In any case, what I was interested in is the concentration of mercury and aluminum reported to be in FluLaval. That's pretty darned easy to find out. All you have to do is to look up the FluLaval package insert, which is easily found either on the GlaxoSmithKline or FDA website:

Each 0.5-mL dose contains 50 mcg thimerosal (<25 mcg mercury). Each 0.5-mL dose may also contain residual amounts of ovalbumin (≤0.3 mcg), formaldehyde (≤25 mcg), and sodium deoxycholate (≤50 mcg) from the manufacturing process. Antibiotics are not used in the manufacture of this vaccine.

Adams could have saved himself the trouble of trying to get his hands on a vial of FluLaval and running the sample just by reading the package insert. Here's a hint: 25 mcg per 0.5 ml equals 50 ppm. So in this case, at least, Adams appears to have been reasonably accurate with his ICP-MS.

Even more hilariously, Adams clearly even read the package insert. He goes on and on and on about the legalese in on the vaccine insert about how the vaccine has never been proven to decrease flu disease and how "safety and effectiveness of Flulaval have not been established in pregnant women, nursing mothers or children," quoting directly from the package insert. It's a gambit I like to call argumentum ad package insert. (Sorry, I don't know Latin and have no idea how one would try to say "package insert" in Latin. Perhaps I can leave that as an exercise for my readers.)

Yes, republishing scary-sounding quotes from package inserts is a time-dishonored and cherished deceptive tactic used by antivaccine loons to try to paint a picture in which vaccines are portrayed as being not only ineffective, but downright dangerous. The FDA has very strict rules about what must be included in package inserts, and one of those rules is that any adverse reaction "for which there is some basis to believe there is a causal relationship between the drug and the occurrence of the adverse event." As my bud Skeptical Raptor pointed out, the key word here is "believe," rather than to be based on strong evidence. In practice, package inserts usually end up listing darned near every bad thing that happened to subjects in clinical trials whether causally related to the vaccine or not. Our skeptical reptilian friend also pointed me to a hilarious parody of a package insert for airline flight that I plan on citing any time I encounter an argumentum ad package insert as mind-numbingly stupid as Mike Adams'.

Of course, what Adams won't tell you is that thimerosal- (and therefore mercury-) containing vaccines have been extensively studied for safety. Numerous well-executed study (as opposed to lousy studies by antivaccine quacks like Mark and David Geier or Andrew Wakefield) have failed to find even a whiff of a hint of a link between mercury at the doses used in vaccines and autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. The idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes or contributes to causing autism is a failed hypothesis. None of this, of course, stops Adams from doing what Adams does best and bringing home the crazy:

Trusting a flu shot made by a corporation of felons is a lot like trusting the purity of heroin you buy from a street dealer. Both flu shots and street heroin have at least one thing in common, by the way: neither has ever been tested for safety.

We also know that flu shots contain neurotoxic chemicals and heavy metals in alarming concentrations. This is irrefutable scientific fact. We also know that there is no "safe" form of mercury just like there is no safe form of heroin -- all forms of mercury are highly toxic when injected into the body (ethyl, methyl, organic, inorganic).

The only people who argue with this are those who are already mercury poisoned and thus incapable of rational thought. Mercury damages brain function, you see, which is exactly what causes some people to be tricked into thinking vaccines are safe and effective.

Technically, you'd have to be stupid to believe such a thing, as the vaccine insert directly tells you precisely the opposite.

No, you'd have to be stupid (or at least ignorant of actual vaccine science, which is not necessarily the same thing) to believe anything Mike Adams has to say about vaccines or that he is not antivaccine.

More like this

If there's one thing about having a demanding day job, it's that the cranks usually have the advantage. They can almost always hit first when a news story comes out that they can spin to attack their detested science. On the other hand, it usually ensures that by the time I get home, have dinner…
As I mentioned earlier this morning, I went to get my annual flu vaccine. It's the least I can do to protect myself and to protect the immunosuppressed patients around me in a major cancer center. I was looking forward to cheekily asking the nurse administering the vaccine to make sure mine had…
One of the most pernicious lies promoted by the antivaccine movement is a trope that I've labeled the "toxins gambit." Basically, it's the lie, oft repeated in hysterical terms, that there are all sorts of horrible toxic chemicals in vaccines, and it is those toxic substances that are responsible…
Sometimes, when you're blogging, serendipity strikes. Sometimes this takes the form of having something appear related to something you just blogged about. Yesterday, I discussed one of the biggest supporters of quackery on the Internet, Mike Adams, a.k.a. the Health Ranger, proprietor of…

a corporation of felons

That's not a charge to make lightly. Who, exactly, has been convicted, and of what? It would not surprise me a bit if relevant people have been accused of crimes, but unless they have been convicted that would make them, at worst, alleged felons.

Mercury damages brain function

OK, Mike, so how do we know it hasn't damaged yours?

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

If I were to crush up one of Adam's supplements, I'd probably also find high concentrations of things... because I'm not comparing the actual dose. 50 ppm might be a bad concentration in your water when you drink cups of the stuff daily, or in your fish, when you eat several ounces of it regularly, but be safe in a vaccine or pill when you ingest a tiny amount. Total dose does matter here.

Argumentum ad package insert!!!!!

I believe that I suffered a vaccine injury- that occured within the critical 6 day period** - which belongs on a package insert:

I was asked by a companion if I could read a restauant's posted menu written in Portuguese or Spanish; whilst reading I caught the sole of my high heeled sandal on broken concrete and fell which caused an injury which has re-appeared intermittently over the past 5 years.

Vaccines cause clumsiness when reading Portuguese or Spanish while wearing Italian shoes. Beware!

** see AJW et al ; the Lancet, retracted

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

Since Mikey clearly had the package insert handy how do we know he even used the mass spectrometer? He could very well have just looked at the insert and converted the 25mcg to 50 ppm(as our host did). I doubt he's capable of using his new toys accurately.

By shadow1458 (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

@ Orac

in this case, at least, Adams appears to have been reasonably accurate with his ICP-MS.

Come on, give this man his dues, he did manage to find about the right amount.
Even it it was off the scale in regard to his calibration curve.
OMG! The readings are off the scale!.
(pro tip: in cases like this, one scientist redoes a wider calibration curve, or dilutes his sample, if he has some left, and takes a new reading)

But still, I'm surprised and should admit he seems to have some ideas on how to operate his instrument.
Now, as for what he does of his results... Speaking of this:

over 25,000 times higher than the maximum contaminant level of inorganic mercury in drinking water set by the EPA

Remember, kids, drink your eight glasses of vaccine every day.

Heck, just as I was typing this, I was doing the math. Two liters of water versus 1 ml of vaccine, that's already a factor 2000. That you get in a flu shot is equal to 2 weeks of drinking water (assuming worst case scenario, so OK, make it 1 month of drinking if you like). But since you don't usually get more than one flu shot a year, and ethylmercury is quickly eliminated, compared to inorganic mercury... Crying wolf, much?

@ Denice

a vaccine injury- that occured within the critical 6 day period

Are you sure it isn't a 6-month critical period? Before and after the shot?

By Helianthus (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

@ shadow1458

He could very well have just looked at the insert and converted the 25mcg to 50 ppm

I should admit the idea occurred to me. But I was feeling bordering on personal attack by implying such. After all, is it far-fetched that he found someone to teach him the basic moves on the instrument?
Or another hypothesis: the analyses are really done, but by a loyal, trained minion of him, or by an external lab, and Mike is claiming the credit.
Anyway, I decided to do the polite thing and mock him for his misuse of his results.


Sick and praying to the porcelain god.

Sounds very annoying. A friend of mine just started a new job and spend the night before her first day in similar prayers :-(

By Helianthus (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

@ Orac

0.5 mL? Indeed, my mistake. Oh, that's even better.

Addendum: I feel guilty and would like to acknowledge a recent XKCD/What If entry as the inspiration for my joke about the 8 glasses.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

Trusting a flu shot made by a corporation of felons is a lot like trusting the purity of heroin you buy from a street dealer.

I'd be more worried about the blow. Even MDMA has predictable branding.

(You can get mescaline in Tucson? I'm impressed.)

It's his bedroom.

I have an acquaintance that does Mass Spec for a living. He knows his stuff and has even developed things for MS that are widely used by others. I mentioned Mikey to him and he said something along the lines of "An idiot could run that stuff", going on to say:

You could deliberately eff it up.
But that's lying. And scientists don't do that.
Oh wait. He's selling s**t.

If your dinner had the same Vitamin A ppm as a multivitamin, it would be highly toxic.

Seems interesting that the 'Health Ranger' didn't say that the vaccine he tested was contaminated. He knew what he was doing, what the results really meant, and knew how to avoid getting sued. Was actually a good bit of propaganda, as far as propaganda goes...

By Vincent Iannelli, MD (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

We also know that there is no “safe” form of mercury just like there is no safe form of heroin

Actually, heroin is safe if it is pharmaceutical grade and used at the correct dosage. In Europe, it has been used for maintenance treatment of addicts for years. I was administered heroin twice when I passed a kidney stone while travelling in rural Scotland. Good stuff. I neither died nor became addicted.

You are a big pharma shill.


Back in the stone ages, the UK had a great heroin program for addicts - and it also meant that keeping heroin legal meant that MDs could keep prescribing it as a painkiller. It all went to hell with Thatcher, of course. A great shame.

Johanna & TBruce: Big difference between Europe and the US. Here, the treatment/maintenance drug of choice for heroin addicts has been methadone. Heroin itself is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it is considered to have no legitimate medical use (contrast with cocaine, which is Schedule II because it is occasionally used as a local anesthetic, but rarely so because its much less dangerous chemical relative novocaine does the same thing). But morphine, which is not that different from heroin, has traditionally been an important part of the treatment kit for pain, and AFAIK still is. In Catch-22, morphine is the drug in the first aid kit that Milo Minderbinder swaps for shares in the syndicate, to Snowden's detriment--everybody knew it was valuable.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

@ Helianthus:

Well, the critical period as originally reported was probably 6 months+/- but we all know that Andy likes to round numbers down a bit so it turned out to be 6 days in the final uh.... *edit*.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink


Unfortunately, I've met several addicts who, when treated with methadone (in the UK and the US) went right back to heroin. Sigh. A sensible heroin program would make a lot of difference for so many people. Anyways. Didn't meant to hijack - sorry!

To be fair, calling out competitors for having heavy metals in their supplements is in fact a worthy project.

It all went to hell with Thatcher, of course.

The shift from prescribing heroin for maintenance, to prescribing methadone for wtihdrawal, is a rare example of a disastrous change in policy free from the involvement of Thatcher.
Ben Goldacre started his skeptical-science-writer career with an essay pointing out the superiority of the prescription approach.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

In other woo-centric news:

Well, I got it straight from the horse's mouth:
Grandmeister Null ( @ his eponymous show archived @ PRN today, about 21 minutes in) is
- issuing a challenge to vaccine supporters - especially those who are also *vaccine developers*- to debate the safety and efficacy of vacines on the air with him
- the invitation is also extended to the head of the FDA, head of the AMA , Surgeon General, Sceptics etc etc etc
- AND he announces that he has "broken the code" and knows the identities and funding behind sceptic groups
- AND massive exposes and major lawsuits are on the way

OH sceptics!
Tremble in your Laboutins! Shiver in your Savile Row suits!
Quake in your Burberry Prorsum! Flee in your Jaguars! Escape in your Maserati!**

The gig is up. The Investigative Reporter is ON TO US!

** I believe that that's already a plural

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

Let me know when he reveals the funding behind us skeptics. I'd sure like to know who isn't making me rich.

He might mean something like this;


Of course, this is one of the rare occasions demonstrating the blind squirrel finding a nut phenomenon in that ACSH actually does appear to me to be an industry front group these days, although Mercola goes overboard into conspiracy mongering and, of course, demonizing things that really aren't harmful and that ACSH is scientifically correct to defend. Even so, given its relentless promotion of e-cigarettes lately, touting science that is thus far highly unclear and by no means anywhere near conclusive about the usefulness of e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid, I have to wonder if e-cig manufacturers are now funding ACSH.

Orac, he's probably miffed being that his *pied a terre* has been marked down to 4.8 million USD from 6. ( see paradisegardensnaplesfl.com for photos) so he's b!tching about our lives of luxe.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

-btw- the Burberry is all bought at discount.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 03 Jun 2014 #permalink

He might mean something like this

"Once you start to look at them more closely, you’ll find that most of these repetitive front groups 'in the name of science' lead back to the same people... and the industry science they espouse is very much like a new religion—one that does not tolerate others beliefs."


I can't wear Laboutin's since the accident, but I wouldn't mind a new pair of LL Bean snow boots. Especially after this past winter.

OMG! All that from supplements! (Re: photos of Adams' house).

(It actually doesn't look very inviting and is rather over-the-top for my tastes). I prefer a yellow brick road.

Argumentum ad scriptum in pyxide. (pix' - eh - deh). Argument according to the writing in the box of drugs. A pyxis actually is a drug box.

Adams still has a giant hardon for the EPA Drinking Limit Guidelines.

Does he use the CO limit for his car emissions for his furnace at home, too?

I can't help thinking we need more laws to deal with this misinformation.. maybe if you have posted something that has proven to be false and then you post it again, that would be enough to get the site taken down.. at least with things that are life and death such as Vaccines. Probably impossible to implement unfortunately but something needs to stop these people lying!

@ Dorothy:

Actually, that's the other wanker's ( Null) house.

I currently don't know where to go to see photos of Adams' current ranch ( Austin, Texas) but you may be able to find his former digs in Vilcabamba Ecuador which was for sale for 695K USD IIRC.
It was similarly a stucco nughtmare surrounded by a "food forest" ( his term, not mine), i.e. an orchard of fruit trees and other plants. He was involved with real estate there and the website was something on the order of 'Vilcabamba Real Estate' ( in English, not Spanish). 695K USD is mucho dinero in the Ecuadorian wilds.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 04 Jun 2014 #permalink


By Denice Walter (not verified) on 04 Jun 2014 #permalink

@ Narad:

re industry front groups and science
According to the woo-meister, any research that is not *independently* funded, i.e. which has any ties to governrment, industry or universities, is not trustworthy. Most SBM research is therefore suspect.

HOWEVER studies produced by alt med advocates, hiv/aids dissidents, vaccine safety proponents and supplement salesmen are just fine.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 04 Jun 2014 #permalink

Tremble in your Laboutins! Shiver in your Savile Row suits!
Quake in your Burberry Prorsum! Flee in your Jaguars! Escape in your Maserati!

If I wanted to be rich enough to afford any of the above, I'd be in a different line of work. It sounds like Mr. Null would like to have those things himself (well, the Laboutins would presumably be for his wife/mistress), and as is so frequently the case he projects those desires onto his enemies. I get that some people do consider these things to be valuable status symbols, but I am not one of those people--they don't do anything for me that I couldn't get from a much cheaper alternative.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Jun 2014 #permalink

@ Eric Lund:

I enjoy playing on the well-paid, pampered shill routine.

Truth be told, I wear many different brands ( if they make me look good) and only purchase designer stuff at discount - my late mother worked in the fashion business so I would never pay the listed price.

Actually almost anyone can afford that stuff ( or a used Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW etc) if you know where to look.

HOWEVER the woo-meisters who hang those labels on SB people and sceptics DO live in palaces and CAN afford *new* Jaguars and Maserati. ( see Null, Mercola, AJW, Dr B et al). Most of them dress atrociously despite their wealth ( exception: Andy. He doesn't dress badly). They want to deflect their audiences' attention away from the fact that they're making a killing selling crap.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 04 Jun 2014 #permalink

Rebecca Fisher,

Here’s interesting piece about the UK’s latest right-wing nutcases, UKIP, and some of their other beliefs.

That's very worrying indeed. I marched with the Anti Nazi League in the late 70s when the National Front looked like they were gaining ground, and I find it sad to see history repeating itself. I feel particularly bad because I forgot to vote last week - I put my polling card in my pocket when I went out, got distracted and only remembered after the polls closed, not that my vote would have made the slightest difference in my borough.

I'm hoping UKIP is a flash in the pan, and most of the votes for them were protest votes from people who will vote otherwise next year when they realize there's a real chance of them winning seats.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 04 Jun 2014 #permalink

Sorry, that was intended for the Daily Show thread. My browser keeps jumping back to the previous page for some reason, possibly a new mouse.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 04 Jun 2014 #permalink

Shiver in your Savile Row suits!

I can't say that the London Cut has ever much appealed to me.

One of The Danger Ranger's minions is petitioning Congress to TAKE ACTION!1!!!!11!!

An Open Letter to Congress About Mercury in Vaccines

Catherine J. Frompovich
Activist Post


"The jig is up! Twenty-five thousand times more mercury than the EPA says is the maximum contaminant levels for drinking water legally is being injected into your constituents—a very serious matter, so we are holding you accountable for getting mercury out of vaccines—NOW! "

"Tests conducted via ICP-MS document mercury in the Flulaval vaccine at a shocking 51 parts per million, or over 25,000 times higher than the maximum contaminant level of inorganic mercury in drinking water set by the EPA"

Which has absolutely no relevance to what is a safe level of ethylmercury (an organomercury) in a one time annually, 0.5mL vaccine.

It's important to understand that you generally can't apply one safety standard/threshold to something else that appears superficially similar or related.

Both method and frequency of expose matter as well as the specific substance involved rather than just the general class of substance or a particular element in a molecule

By Karl Withakay (not verified) on 05 Jun 2014 #permalink

A bit over 3.3 gal. Worst-case-safe drinking water, If I didn't screw up the math. So not much.

We never trust results from a CRO unless we can send them blinded samples and have them report back the right data. I'm sure Mikey would be happy to compare samples of his own Magic Stuff to the Evil Competitor Stuff in a blinded fashion...

Actually almost anyone can afford that stuff ( or a used Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW etc) if you know where to look.

It's not buying a used Jaguar, Mercedes, or BMW that's expensive - it's owning one...

(Okay, yes, I owned an old BMW on the cheap, but I did a back-yard engine swap and rather a lot of electrical tinkering.)

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 06 Jun 2014 #permalink

When someone says the only good science is their science AND they're selling a product that fixes what they are "researching" and you buy their crap, your birth was foretold by P. T. Barnum.