Christopher Exley, notorious vaccine pseudoscientist, blocked from funding

Christopher Exley, a Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, 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, 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.” 

Pardon me, while I laugh hysterically.

Christopher Exley
Necessary for anti-vaccine aluminum foil hats.

Who is this Christopher Exley?

If you follow my articles about anti-vaccine false authorities, Christopher Exley is one of those pseudoscientists, along with oft-retracted Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, who are pushing the nonsense that aluminum in vaccines cause autism. You know, the autism that has never been shown to be linked to any vaccine

Anyway, Christopher Exley has angered public health experts, those researchers who actually have substantial backgrounds in the real science of vaccines, by claiming that aluminum in vaccines given to infants may cause “severe and disabling” autism. Once again, if I have not been clear enough, there is no robust, repeated, published evidence that any vaccine is causally linked to autism. 

Christopher Exley
Beer in aluminum bottles. Not aluminum in vaccines. Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

All about aluminum in vaccines

Aluminum salts, in amounts far below any level of toxicity, are used as adjuvants to increase the immune effect of vaccines. Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to “remember” a pathogen so that it will attack it before it causes a dangerous or deadly disease. 

According to Vaxopedia:

Aluminum is used in vaccines that protect kids against several vaccine-preventable diseases, including diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP and Tdap), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, hepatitis A, HPV, and pneumococcal disease (Prevnar).

Without adjuvants, more and frequent vaccinations would be required to induce the immune system response. And we all know what would happen if more vaccines and more frequent vaccinations were required – the anti-vaccine religion would be apoplectic. 

I’ve written numerous articles about aluminum in vaccines, and it’s clear that there’s nothing there. The basic toxicology of aluminum does not support the pseudoscience pushed by Christopher Exley and his ilk. 

Let’s look at the math with respect to aluminum in vaccines. We must start with the fact that aluminum is the third most common element on this planet, after oxygen and silicon. It is so ubiquitous that it’s nearly impossible to avoid it, short of living in a certified aluminum-free bubble.

The amount of aluminum in vaccines varies from 0.125 mg to 1.5 mg per dose. Importantly, infants receive around 4.4 mg of aluminum during their first six months of vaccinations. Now, this is where “the dose makes the poison,” a key concept in the understanding of toxicity. For example, water, a chemical that we need every single day of our lives to live, can be poisonous at a high enough dose.

But dose alone does not tell the full story. I don’t get this belief that human physiology is so pathetic, that it’s a miracle that we survive after a few days on earth. Actually, after a few billion years of evolution, most organisms have incredibly robust methods to deal with anything that may harm it. Aluminum hydroxide is quickly eliminated from the body, generally via the kidneys that love to filter out issues.

But how does this compare to real-world situations especially since aluminum is such a common element in the real world? Breastfed infants ingest about 7 mg of aluminum during their first six months. Formula fed infants ingest about 38 mg. Soy formula-fed infants ingest almost 117 mg of aluminum. In other words, infants get nearly 2-30X more aluminum from just food than from vaccines.

The air itself has lots of aluminum. In a city, the air contains 0.4 – 8.0 µg (micrograms, or 0.001 mg) of aluminum per cubic meter of air. A baby inhales about 7.2 cubic meters of air every day, which means that they’re inhaling from 2.9 to 57.6 µg of aluminum every day. Thus, a baby may get from 1.1 to 10.5 mg aluminum just from breathing during their first six months of life, right around what you would expect from vaccines during that period of time.

And please don’t go down the rabbit hole that “injected” aluminum is far worse than inhaled or ingest aluminum. The digestive tract has no inherent ability to selectively ignore absorption of aluminum salts – generally, it gets into the bloodstream at far greater amounts every day than in a lifetime of vaccinations. 

But once again, there is no evidence of a link between vaccines (with or without 10 billion tonnes of aluminum) and autism.

I think that aluminum has gotten a bad name, at least with respect to neurological disorders, because of an oft-repeated claim that aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. There is little evidence supporting this link

Furthermore, we have powerful evidence that contradicts Exley’s pseudoscience. In a 2018 paper published in Academic Pediatrics, the authors succinctly summarized their results:

Neither B-Al (blood aluminum) nor H-Al (hair aluminum) was correlated with age, suggesting that biomarker levels were constant among this cross-section of infants aged 9 to 13 months. No correlation was found between H-Al or B-Al concentrations and the infant’s history of receipt of aluminum-containing immunizations, either the estimated cumulative aluminum load from previous immunizations or that from vaccines received on the date of testing. These results are similar to those reported by investigators who studied 15 premature infants before and after they received 1200 μg aluminum in their 2-month-old immunizations and reported no changes in blood or urine aluminum levels.

Christopher Exley’s pseudoscience in aluminum garbage cans. Also not in vaccines. Photo by Thomas Dils on Unsplash

Christopher Exley conflict of interest

Of course, there’s more to the story about Exley’s “research” funding that is either delicious irony or just plain loathsome. Much of his research is funded by the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, run by an infamous anti-vaxxer, Claire Dwoskin. Ironically, Dwoskin has supported lots of fake vaccine research, including the frequently retracted “research” from the aforementioned Shaw and Tomljenovic.

Here’s the thing that the anti-vaxxers don’t get. If Big Pharma funds vaccine research, it is always unrestricted, meaning that Big Pharma takes a risk that the results aren’t going to be to its liking. More and more corporate science research funding is rejected by academic centers unless it is unrestricted, that is, the company has no access to or influence over data until after it is published. This is important to the free flow of ideas, and it is a huge improvement over research funding from just 20 years ago. Furthermore, it is required by respected journals that researchers list their conflicts of interest.

Exley didn’t acknowledge the conflict of interest since the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute sounds legitimate. It isn’t. It is a front organization for anti-vaccine propaganda. And Exley should put that out in front of everything he does because by not acknowledging their bias, it’s actually worse than receiving an unrestricted grant from Big Pharma. 

As the venerable Orac once wrote about Exley:

We’ve met Exley before on this blog twice, and his track record is not—shall we say?—encouraging. The first time I dealt with Exley, he had published a truly execrable paper in which he measured aluminum content in mastectomy specimens taken from 17 women with breast cancer in which he tried to link aluminum from antiperspirants to breast cancer. He also wrote a review article trying to make the same argument. In both cases, he failed to make anything resembling a compelling scientific case for aluminum from antiperspirants as a cause of breast cancer. The second time, I noted that he’s one of a group of scientists funded by the Child Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI), which is a group funded by Claire and Al Dwoskin, who are as rabidly antivaccine as anyone I’ve seen, including even Mike Adams. Among that group of antivaccine “scientists” funded by CMSRI? Anthony MawsonChristopher ShawLucija Tomljenovic, and Yehuda Shoenfeld, antivaccine crank “scientists” all. And guess what? This study was funded by CMSRI, too. Fair’s fair. If antivaxers can go wild when a study is funded by a pharmaceutical company and reject it out of hand, I can point out that a study funded by an antivaccine “foundation” is deserving of more scrutiny and skepticism.

But all of this is not as important as the final point – there is no link between vaccines and autism. Period. This is settled science


The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!