Whatever Happened to Mercurachrome?

Do you remember that orange liquid your Mom used to put on a scrape if you fell down?

English: Picture I took of a small puddle of t...

Puddle of the element mercury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was mercury that made Mercurochrome (merbromin) and Merthiolate (thiomersal) the anti-bacterial agents our Moms used to keep scrapes from getting infected.

After having been discovered for its anti-bacterial property at Johns Hopkins University in 1918, on October 19, 1998, Mercurachrome was moved from the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list to Untested by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), because of concerns about its mercury content.

Distribution in the U.S. ended then. Several other antiseptic agents, like povidone iodine, sold under the brand name, Betadine and also orange, are used instead.

Merthiolate was also an anti-bacterial agent and an anti-fungal agent.

Thiomersal was discovered by a University of Maryland scientist and patented in 1927.

It was licensed to Eli Lilly, which changed the drug’s name to Merthiolate.

But, it had also another use, as a preservative in vaccinations.

It was introduced after a 1928 outbreak of diphtheria when 12 of 21 children who had been inoculated for diphtheria died, before vaccinations contained preservatives.

In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ordered a review of foods and drugs that contained mercury.

Because of the increased number of vaccinations children are expected to take and the rise in autism, some parents came to believe that vaccinations, especially those that used the mercury-based preservative thiomersal, caused autism and stopped taking their children for shots.

Repeated attempts to determine if there is a link have come up empty.

But, autism appears about the same time, two years of age, that children are getting a lot of shots, so some fearful parents still believe that events that happen at the same time are the cause.

Despite the fact that autism does not have the same symptoms as mercury poisoning and that autism rates continue to rise even with the phasing out of thiomersal, out of an excess of caution, the CDC and AAP asked manufacturers to remove thiomersal from vaccinations wherever possible.

There are still some exceptions, like the combined diphtheria/tetanus shot and several rarely used anti-venom shots, like for pit viper, coral snake, and black widow.

Did you wonder whatever happened to that orange stuff your Mom used to put on cuts?

Did your doctor use it when you delivered your children?

Do you use hand sanitizers in the grocery store?

To you and your grandchildren’s good health.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru, Grandma to two awesome seven-year-olds

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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