Neurotoxic character of thimerosal and the allometric extrapolation of adult clearance half-time to infants

J Appl Toxicol. 2003 Jul-Aug;23(4):263-9. doi: 10.1002/jat.918.


The decomposition rate of organomercurials and the potency of the blood-brain barrier increase with the size of the organic radical. Thus methylmercury damages the brain more than thimerosal does, and when intake limits set for methylmercury are applied to thimerosal the safety margin is increased even if the clearances were the same. However, the clearance half-time of ethylmercury in adults is about one-third of the 50 days' clearance half-time of methylmercury given for 60 kg body weight. Moreover, because metabolic rates (e.g. basal metabolism, daily loss of mercury in per cent of body burden) in different weight groups are related to the fractional power of body weight (rule of allometry), mercury clears from the infant body faster than from the adult body. Blood mercury concentrations observed after vaccination showed agreement with allometrically extrapolated concentrations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / adverse effects
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacokinetics*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / drug effects
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology
  • Body Constitution
  • Ethylmercury Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Methylmercury Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / pharmacokinetics*
  • Rats
  • Species Specificity
  • Thimerosal / adverse effects
  • Thimerosal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Ethylmercury Compounds
  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Vaccines
  • Thimerosal