In a future post I will get into more detail about the anti-vaccination movement in general, but for today I will focus my discussion and conclusions on the confusion that has led some to believe that vaccines include antifreeze when in fact they do not.
The idea that vaccines contain antifreeze is a misunderstanding of chemistry and the nature of chemical compounds that has been largely promoted by groups who believe that vaccinations cause autism. Yes, some types of antifreeze contain ethylene glycol (EG). Yes, some vaccines contain polyethylene glycol (PEG). No, vaccines do not contain EG. PEG and EG are fundamentally different chemicals.
Well, what’s the difference, they sound the same to me?”
That “poly” is an important distinction. Saying that PEG is the same as EG is like saying sodium chloride is poisonous because it has chlorine in it. Sodium chloride is salt. Chlorine does not equal chloride – and that’s just the difference of one letter in the name, so nobody should go by nomenclature or spelling to decide how different chemicals are. Chlorine is a strong oxidizing agent. Chloride is the major anion in sea water. If chlorine and chloride behaved at all the same, the entire sea would be poisonous. Chloride and chlorine even have the same chemical structure, but chloride is negatively charged. So something as “small” as the charge, or even the nature of a single bond, can completely change the nature of a chemical.
The chemical structure of EG is: HO-CH2-CH2-OH
The chemical structure of PEG is: HO-(CH2-CH2-O-)n-H
Looking at that, it can be easy to mistake them for the same thing. However, the brackets indicate that the component CH2CH2O is repeated “n” (a number of) times between the OH and the H. This is called a polymer (or oligomer) chain. Note that 2 H’s and an O make H2O – water. So:
EG has one water molecule per CH2CH2O component.
PEG has one water molecule per the entire polymer chain and the chain can contain several CH2CH2O components.
The structure of a chemical is important, thus the fact that there a different number of CH2CH2O components in PEG compared to EG is fundamental to the chemical’s nature and function. They are 2 different chemicals. Period.
Ok so we’ve established that EG and PEG are not the same chemical just because they look alike and sound alike. So, how are they different in action?
EG is a highly toxic chemical that is generally used in coolants, natural gas production, chemical reactions, and manufacturing plastics/polyester. Acute EG poisoning initially presents similarly to intoxication – dizziness, headache, slurring, and confusion. Unfortunately, EG digests into other toxins, such as glycolic acid and several other compounds, as it leaves the body. The accumulation of these compounds contributes to the overall toxicity in the body leading to cardiac distress and, eventually, kidney failure.
PEG is produced by the interaction of ethylene oxide with ethylene glycol and/or water. PEG has a low toxicity and is used in the production of several consumer products: laxatives, skin cream, sexual lubricants, foams, tattoos, body armour, eye drops, etc. It is also used for bowel irrigation before surgery. PEG is added to protein medications to produce longer-lasting medication effects, improve metabolism and distribution within the body, improve dosing intervals, and reduce the toxicity of the medication. PEG is often added to compounds that require the mixing of substances with very different properties (for example, to mix oil and water) or to generally increase homogenization. Attaching PEG to other molecules can also mask certain drugs from the immune system, preventing their rejection.
Remember what I said about salt: even a different charge on a chemical can change its action and function, let alone the addition of an entire molecule section.
EG is toxic. EG is not contained in vaccines, but it is contained in antifreeze. So the rejection of vaccination based on the premise that vaccines contain antifreeze and are poisonous is not supported.
PEG is not toxic. Some vaccines contain PEG, but not all. PEG is not linked to the development of autism. PEG is a non-toxic chemical that is added to vaccines largely to improve dispersion in the body and improve homogenization of the ingredients. PEG is also added to many other household items that people use everyday without ill effects. So, again, rejecting vaccines for containing PEG due to the belief that it is somehow the same as EG is not supported.