Aluminum Effects on Health

Aluminum occurs naturally and makes up about 8% of the surface of the earth. It is always found combined with other elements in the earth such as minerals and rocks. Aluminum metal is silver-white and flexible.

Color/Form: Tin-white, malleable, ductile metal, with somewhat bluish tint

Human Exposure To Aluminum

Eating small amounts of aluminum in food; breathing higher levels of aluminum dust in workplace air; drinking water with high levels of aluminum near waste sites, manufacturing plants, or areas naturally high in aluminum; eating substances containing high levels of aluminum (such as antacids); very little enters your body from aluminum cooking utensils.

Aluminum is distributed in most organs within the body with accumulation occurring mainly in bone at high dose levels. To a limited extent, aluminum passes the blood-brain barrier and is also distributed to the fetus. Aluminum is eliminated effectively by urine.

Major Uses

Aluminum is often used in cooking utensils, containers, appliances, and building materials. It is used in several forms including aluminum nitrate, aluminum oxide, aluminum hydroxide (used in antacids), aluminum chlorohydrate (used in deodorants), and aluminum sulfate (used to treat drinking water). It is used in paints and fireworks, and to produce glass, rubber, and ceramics. It is also found in cosmetics and deodorants.

As active ingredient in pesticides, aluminum powder is no longer contained in any registered products.

Uses in Food Industry

As a food additive aluminum is used inthe following forms:

  • Aluminium ammonium sulfate - raising agent, stabilizer
  • Aluminium calcium silicate - anticaking agent
  • Aluminium silicate - anticaking agent
  • Calcium aluminium silicate - anticaking agent
  • Sodium aluminium phosphate-acidic - acidity regulator, emulsifier
  • Sodium aluminium phosphate-basic - acidity regulator, emulsifier

Therapeutic Uses

Medicinally, aluminum and its salts are used in antacids, antidiarrheals, and protective dermatological pastes. A veterinary wound healing powder contains 1.41-10.81% aluminum.

Effects on Human Health

Low-level exposure to aluminum from food, air, water, or contact with skin is not thought to harm your health. Aluminum, however, is not a necessary substance for our bodies and too much may be harmful. People who are exposed to high levels of aluminum in air may have respiratory problems including coughing and asthma from breathing dust. Some studies with high levels in mice and rabbits show that aluminum may harm young animals more because it can cause delays in skeletal and neurological development. Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's disease because those patients have high levels of aluminum in their brains. We do not know whether aluminum causes the disease or whether the buildup of aluminum happens to people who already have the disease. Infants and adults who received large doses of aluminum as a treatment for another problem developed bone diseases, which suggests that aluminum may cause skeletal problems. Some sensitive people develop skin rashes from using aluminum chlorohydrate deodorants. There is no evidence that aluminum affects reproduction in people or animals. The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have not classified aluminum for carcinogenicity. The available information has not shown that aluminum is a potential carcinogen.2

The metal itself is a health risk when it occurs as a fine powder, usually called stamped aluminum powder. Exposure to such aluminum powder at high concentrations may give rise to fibrosis of the lung, that is, aluminosis. Neurological syndromes including impairment of cognitive function, motor dysfunction and peripheral neuropathy have been reported in limited studies of workers exposed to aluminum fume.1

References

  1. Hazardous Substances Data Bank
  2. Aluminum