Christopher Aluminum Exley, who is just a pseudoscientist who makes his money by creating false narratives about vaccines. He is another in a long line (see Tetyana Not-An-Immunologist Obukhanych and Christopher Retraction Shaw) of false authorities beloved by the anti-vaccine religion because anti-vaxxers have no scientific evidence supporting their “claims.”
So what has Christopher Aluminum Exley done now? Well, he has written an opinion piece, not a real science article, and convinced some obscure journal to publish it.
No, it’s not new “science,” it’s just a rant from someone who has made it his mission to increase the risk of diseases in children and adults by creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines.
As we do here at the secret lair of the feathered dinosaur, mocking and ridiculing the anti-vaccine “heroes” makes us happy. I hope it does the same for our loyal readers.
Wait, why Christopher Aluminum Exley?
This comes from a blog post from Exley who claims that everyone calls him “Mr. Aluminum.” I doubt this, although no doubt the anti-vaccine zealots do call him that. Henceforth, he will be known as Christopher Aluminum Exley, not because he’s an aluminum expert, but because of his lack of knowledge regarding vaccine science.
In case you are unfamiliar with Christopher Aluminum Exley, he is a Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK. Because of his consistent anti-vaccine stances, Exley has been blocked from raising funds for his pseudoscientific research. His grant applications were rejected by scientific research councils in the UK.
He then turned to GoFundMe to raise money for his “research,” and they also rejected him. GoFundMe stated that “campaigns raising money to promote misinformation about vaccines violate GoFundMe’s terms of service and we are removing them.”
The old feathered dinosaur is amused.
A guest author, VaultDwellerSYR, wrote a wonderful critique of Exley’s article before it or Exley’s accompanying blog posts were officially published. I am stealing liberally from that article, but updating it with a lot more snark and some other information including some ridiculous claims in Exley’s blog post.
VaultDwellerSYR is a real scientist who performs real research about the brain, wrote this about Exley’s article:
I am reading through and so far references are: Exley, Exley, Exley, Exley, Exley, Lujan (the sheep dude), Exley, Exley, Gherardi, Exley, Exley, Exley, Exley, and Exley citing a previous article. Damn thats a lot of compensation here for the lack of being taken as credible by his peers.
Obviously, VaultDwellerSYR loves his or her snark.
First point – physicians know about aluminum
The first item of concern written by Christopher Exley is:
For example, paediatricians, responsible for administering the vaccine schedule for children, seem in particular, to be uninformed about the properties of aluminium adjuvants and their mode of action in vaccines.
The rationale of such a comment appears to be unfounded and not supported by the literature. For instance, the American Association of Pediatrics, the most influential association of pediatric physicians in the United States, provides an easy and accessible fact-sheet to physicians. It states:
Aluminum salts help your body create a better immune response to vaccines. Aluminum salts are necessary to make some of the vaccines we use more effective. Without an adjuvant like aluminum, people could need more doses of shots to be protected. Everyone is exposed to aluminum because there is much aluminum in the earth’s crust.
It’s present in our food, air and water, including breast milk and formula. The amount of aluminum in vaccines is similar to that found in 33 ounces of infant formula. Aluminum has been used and studied in vaccines for 75 years and is safe.
Such information is also available on many medical center websites such as Children Hospital of Philadelphia. I am sure that there are numerous vaccine science websites from every important medical school, public health organization, and others who publish scientifically accurate information about aluminum adjuvants.
This sentence was immediately followed by a quote criticizing physicians “This apparent ignorance of the published scientific literature is unexpected in those charged with the wellbeing of neonates and infants and especially in the light of Janeway’s description of alum adjuvant as ‘the immunologist’s dirty little secret’.”
However, that sentence was cited out of the context from the original article. In the original article, Janeway referred to this quote as part of a paragraph discussing the use of adjuvants and the lack of a mechanistic explanation for their activity, referring to it as the following:
…however, in order to obtain readily detectable responses to these antigens, they must be incorporated into a remarkable mixture termed complete Freund’s adjuvant, heavily laced with killed Mycobacterium tuberculosis organisms or precipitated in alum and mixed with Bordetella pertussis organisms. I call this the immunologist dirty secret.
The quote of Janeway by the author is both taken out of context and irrelevant to the use of adjuvants by pediatricians.
I would also raise my concerns about the condescending connotations of Christopher Aluminum Exley towards a class of medical professionals known for their remarkable effort and dedication to ensure the health and wellbeing of infants and children.
By using metaphorical terms such as “baby talk” in a derogatory manner towards a whole professional corpus in general, in an attempt of infantilizing their communications and knowledge on the topic of immunization.
Exley is also using a dangerous and slanderous claim that has no place in a scientific journal. I may mention that a similar attack to a criticism of a scientific study co-authored by Exley, led to the retraction of one of his letters to the editor, as it was deemed too slanderous.
Yes, Christopher Aluminum Exley is another anti-vaccine “scientist” who has had papers retracted. The feathered dinosaur cannot spend enough time explaining how laughable this is.
Second point – how much aluminum is in vaccines
In the following section, Exley is discussing the content of aluminum in vaccines, claiming an alleged inaccuracy of the aluminum content as an amount (weight) per unit volume of a vaccine:
Currently about 20 childhood vaccines include an aluminium adjuvant. Vaccine industry literature (for example) expresses the aluminium content of an individual vaccine as an amount (weight) of aluminium (not aluminium salt) per unit volume of a vaccine (usually 0.5 mL). Industry does this to account for the fact that there are no strict molecular weights for the polymeric aluminium salts that are used as adjuvants in vaccinations.
Exley stated that the amount of aluminum in vaccines is not accurate, claiming the following
This is not explained in the literature they provide with vaccines and can cause confusion for some as the actual weight of hydrated aluminium salt (e.g. aluminium oxyhydroxide, aluminium hydroxyphosphate and aluminium hydroxyphosphatesulphate) in any vaccine preparation is actually approximately ten fold higher.
Such a statement is confusing at best, or a blatant violation of the tenet of “law of mass conservation” taught in any public high school chemistry class.
Let’s use the example from the author
GlaxoSmithKline’s Infanrix Hexa vaccine is reported by the manufacturer to contain 0.82 mg of aluminium per vaccine (0.5 mL). Thus, the weight of aluminium salt in this vaccine is approximately 8 mg, which is approximately ten times the weight of all of the other components of the vaccine when combined.
The amount of aluminum mentioned is inclusive of all the different chemical species mentioned by the author (and by which I will let his expertise about the chemistry of aluminum on his behalf, as I have no credentials in that matter), as the amount of total aluminum is indeed 0.82mg per 0.5mL (or 1.64mg per mL).
A central tenet of high school chemistry is the concept of molarity. There is a substantial advantage of molarity to estimate a quantity of a chemical over the use of mass. If we consider it for our example (1.64mg/mL), the molarity of aluminum in Infanrix Hexa would be 60 mmole/mL.
That would represent a molecular mass of 2.7mg/mL, and 14.1mg/mL for aluminum oxyhydroxide, hydroxyphosphate, and hydroxyphosphate sulfate. Different amounts (in mass) but the absolute same amount of aluminum (Al).
These compounds all contain one aluminum in their formula; therefore, the actual amount of aluminum would remain 0.82mg/0.5mL, regardless of being in its oxyhydroxide, hydroxyphosphate or hydroxyphosphate forms.
An inorganic salt can have the same molarity and yet have a different amount (mass) dissolved in a defined volume.
A second violation of scientific fact relates to the pharmacokinetics of aluminum. Vaccines are commonly administered as intramuscular (IM) or subcutaneous (SC) injection. In pharmacokinetics, these two administration routes are commonly referred to as extra-vascular routes, with the vascular routes restricted to intra-arterial (IA) and intravenous (IV) administration.
Pharmacists and physicians are exposed to pharmacokinetics during their professional training. Yet, in the following statement, Exley made a statement that is clearly in contradiction with a well-established fact of pharmacokinetics:
All 8 mg of the aluminium salt (or 0.82 mg of aluminium) will immediately be systemic; it is inside the infant’s body.
Such a statement is not only wrong but also plainly fallacious. By definition, the immediate release of a drug within the systemic circulation is only achieved by its administration via IV bolus, in which the maximal concentration (commonly referred as C0) is achieved immediately following injection, such concentration being tributary of the dose administered (mass) and the volume of distribution (volume).
If we assume an IM injection, we have to apply the constraint related to extravascular routes, with an added constraint of the density of the skeletal muscle tissue coupled with its relatively low blood perfusion rate. Therefore, the amount of a drug injected via IM will be tributary of its bioavailability.
Speaking of which…
Third point – bioavailability
So here’s some more excellent science from VaultDwellerSYR:
Commonly, aluminum adjuvants have been documented to display a very low bioavailability resulting in a slow-release from the injection site to the systemic circulation. Such slow release process results in a mild peak concentration, and subsequent levels of circulating aluminum detected in plasma similar to saline controls (or to the vaccination status), as reported in different studies including the pharmacokinetics of aluminum adjuvants in rabbits, in rats, and in humans (see this and this which was reviewed here).
These studies all concluded that aluminum adjuvants, as found in vaccines for pediatric usage, were not showing a concern of elevated systemic levels of aluminum and therefore mitigate the concern of toxicity linked to aluminum adjuvants.
Even using a fast-dissolving aluminum salt (such as aluminum citrate), Weisser and colleagues reported a tmax of 5 minutes in their study. These study, along with another study from Weisser and another from Movsas all concluded that aluminum adjuvants, as found in vaccines for pediatric usage, were not showing a concern of elevated systemic levels of aluminum and therefore mitigate the concern of toxicity linked to aluminum adjuvants.
Surprisingly, these references, albeit crucial for such commentary about aluminum adjuvants, have been omitted for citation by the Exley.
Fourth point – the double-blind clinical trial gambit
Christopher Aluminum Exley claims, in his blog post bragging about his published editorial, the following:
There have not been any clinical trials designed and carried out to test the safety of aluminium adjuvants. Not a single clinical safety trial for any vaccine that includes an aluminium adjuvant. Vaccine manufacturers are not obliged to demonstrate the safety of aluminium adjuvants. Indeed vaccine manufacturers invariably use aluminium adjuvants as placebos in vaccine efficacy trials
Of the contrary, an article that was written by Thomas Jefferson (not the second president who supported smallpox vaccinations, but a somewhat anti-vaccine scientist) states otherwise:
We identified 35 reports of studies and included three randomised trials, four semi-randomised trials, and one cohort study. We did a meta-analysis of data from five studies around two main comparisons (vaccines containing aluminium hydroxide vs no adjuvant in children aged up to 18 months and vaccines containing different types of aluminium vs no adjuvants in children aged 10-16 years).
Somehow, Exley spent so much time using his own “research” to justify his misinformation, he failed to do a proper search for actual studies that contradict his claims.
In case you’re wondering, Dr. Jefferson et al. concluded that:
We found no evidence that aluminium salts in vaccines cause any serious or long-lasting adverse events. Despite a lack of good-quality evidence we do not recommend that any further research on this topic is undertaken.
Remember, this is a conclusion from a researcher who many of us think is not exactly the biggest supporter of vaccines.
Christopher Aluminum Exley – the summary
Exley and numerous other anti-vaccine quacks, like Andrew Fraud Wakefield, continue to claim that there is some link between vaccines and autism. Real science published in real peer-reviewed medical journals states that there is no link. Exley posts an opinion piece and blog article that references himself almost exclusively, and acts like h has a “gotcha” about vaccines and autism.
There is just no evidence that aluminum, especially the amount in vaccines (please remember the old adage that the dose makes the poison), has any relationship to autism. Pseudoscientists like Exley are going about this in the wrong way – they have a conclusion and they will use all possible means to find evidence to support that conclusion.
That’s not science. We should look at all of the evidence, which we have, and we just don’t see a link between vaccines and autism. If we did, then we would take a look at the biologically plausible ingredients in vaccines that may have a long-term neurological effect on children.
But we have huge, in excess of 1 million individuals, studies that just haven’t established a correlation between vaccines and any neurological condition. Stating that there is with pseudoscience isn’t going to convince anyone.
Christopher Aluminum Exley is not respected by his fellow scientists in the UK or anywhere else in the world. But the anti-vaxxers need their false authorities, so they will use him in a pinch.
- Crépeaux G, Eidi H, David MO, Baba-Amer Y, Tzavara E, Giros B, Authier FJ, Exley C, Shaw CA, Cadusseau J, Gherardi RK. Non-linear dose-response of aluminium hydroxide adjuvant particles: Selective low dose neurotoxicity. Toxicology. 2017 Jan 15;375:48-57. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2016.11.018. Epub 2016 Nov 28. PubMed PMID: 27908630.
- Crépeaux G, Exley C, Shaw CA, Gherardi RK. RETRACTED: Letter to the editor “[Toxicology (2017) 159 -159]. Toxicology. 2018 Apr 1;398-399:68. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2018.03.005. PubMed PMID: 29576342.
- Exley C. An aluminium adjuvant in a vaccine is an acute exposure to aluminium. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2020 Jan;57:57-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2019.09.010. Epub 2019 Sep 18. PubMed PMID: 31561170.
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- Jefferson T, Rudin M, Di Pietrantonj C. Adverse events after immunisation with aluminium-containing DTP vaccines: systematic review of the evidence. Lancet Infect Dis. 2004 Feb;4(2):84-90. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(04)00927-2. Review. PubMed PMID: 14871632.
- Karwowski MP, Stamoulis C, Wenren LM, Faboyede GM, Quinn N, Gura KM, Bellinger DC, Woolf AD. Blood and Hair Aluminum Levels, Vaccine History, and Early Infant Development: A Cross-Sectional Study. Acad Pediatr. 2018 Mar;18(2):161-165. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2017.09.003. Epub 2017 Sep 14. PubMed PMID: 28919482.
- Movsas TZ, Paneth N, Rumbeiha W, Zyskowski J, Gewolb IH. Effect of routine vaccination on aluminum and essential element levels in preterm infants. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Sep;167(9):870-2. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.108. PubMed PMID: 23856981.
- Petrik MS, Wong MC, Tabata RC, Garry RF, Shaw CA. Aluminum adjuvant linked to Gulf War illness induces motor neuron death in mice. Neuromolecular Med. 2007;9(1):83-100. PubMed PMID: 17114826.
- Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, Linnell J, Casson DM, Malik M, Berelowitz M, Dhillon AP, Thomson MA, Harvey P, Valentine A, Davies SE, Walker-Smith JA. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet. 1998 Feb 28;351(9103):637-41. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(97)11096-0. PubMed PMID: 9500320.
- Weisser K, Göen T, Oduro JD, Wangorsch G, Hanschmann KO, Keller-Stanislawski B. Aluminium toxicokinetics after intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intravenous injection of Al citrate solution in rats. Arch Toxicol. 2019 Jan;93(1):37-47. doi: 10.1007/s00204-018-2323-8. Epub 2018 Oct 9. PubMed PMID: 30302509.
- Weisser K, Göen T, Oduro JD, Wangorsch G, Hanschmann KO, Keller-Stanislawski B. Aluminium in plasma and tissues after intramuscular injection of adjuvanted human vaccines in rats. Arch Toxicol. 2019 Sep 14;. doi: 10.1007/s00204-019-02561-z. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31522239.