Aluminium is an abundant and very useful mineral salt that’s refined and widely
used to make vehicles, tools, building materials and cooking utensils. It’s also
used to make the tools and machinery used to process and manufacture the
products and foods we use everyday.
Aluminium is used as an additive in medicines,
in almost all processed foods and beverages and
many skin care products.
Scientists, and the powers and authorities that govern us think that aluminium
is harmless and that there is no definitive evidence that aluminium is in anyway
detrimental to our health.
Despite its prevalence in the environment, aluminium salts are not known to be
used by any form of life and aluminium is well tolerated by plants in soils
where aluminium is a major component, but soluble aluminium salts when delivered
in quantity in their food or by injection have proved to be highly toxic to
While aluminium has no known function in living cells, controversy exists about
aluminium’s possible long-term toxicity to humans from larger ingested amounts
or amounts absorbed through the skin.
A small percentage of people are known to be allergic to aluminium and they
experience a range of conditions including contact dermatitis when touching
anything made of aluminium or using deodorants. Others experience digestive
disorders, vomiting or other symptoms from using aluminium cookware or ingesting
products containing aluminium, such as antacids.
In those without allergies, aluminium is not as toxic as heavy metals, but there
is evidence of some toxicity if it is consumed in excessive amounts. The use of
aluminium cookware has not been shown to lead to aluminium toxicity in general,
but excessive consumption of foods and antacids containing aluminium compounds,
and excessive use of aluminium-containing antiperspirants provide more
significant exposure levels.
There is growing widespread concern that aluminium is a factor in Alzheimer’s
disease with delivery routes being cookware, food additives and medications.
According to The Alzheimer’s Society, the overwhelming medical and scientific
opinion is that studies have not convincingly demonstrated a causal relationship
between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, some studies, such as
those on the PAQUID cohort, cite aluminium exposure as a risk factor for
Alzheimer’s disease. Some brain plaques have been found to contain increased
levels of aluminium. Scientific consensus does not yet exist about whether
aluminium exposure could directly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
In 1965, however, animal experiments suggested a possible connection between
aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease, a fact that most choose to ignore.
There is growing widespread concern that aluminium is a factor in breast cancer
with the primary deliver route from underarm deodorants. Science disputes this
along with the use of parabens, but surely any toxin in the body has the
potential to interrupt the metabolism and cause disease.
There is little scientific evidence that normal exposure to aluminium presents a
risk to healthy adults and several studies point to risks associated with
increased exposure to the metal.
Aluminium is present in the following E Numbers:
E 173 Aluminium
E 520 Aluminium sulphate
E 521 Aluminium sodium sulphate
E 522 Aluminium potassium sulphate
E 523 Aluminium ammonium sulphate
E 541 Sodium aluminium phosphate acidic
E 1452 Starch aluminium octenyl succinate
The EU, Regulation 380/2012 deletes the following additives from 31 January 2014
E 554 Sodium aluminium silicate
E 555 Potassium aluminium silicate
E 556 Calcium aluminium silicate
E 559 Aluminium silicate (Kaolin)
Its toxicity can be traced to deposits in bone and the central nervous system,
which is particularly increased in patients with reduced renal function. Because
aluminium competes with calcium for absorption, increased amounts of dietary
aluminium may contribute to the reduced skeletal mineralization (osteopenia)
observed in preterm infants and infants with growth retardation. In very high
doses, aluminium can cause neurotoxicity, and is associated with altered
function of the blood-brain barrier.
Studies have shown that preparation and consumption of acidic foods or liquids
with aluminium cookware significantly increases aluminium absorption, and maltol
has been shown to increase the accumulation of aluminium in nervous and osseus
tissue. Furthermore, aluminium increases estrogen-related gene expression in
human breast cancer cells cultured in the laboratory. The estrogen-like effects
of these salts have led to their classification as a metalloestrogen.
Because of its potentially toxic effects, aluminium’s use food additives,
antiperspirants and dyes is controversial.
Aluminium in food may be absorbed more than aluminium from water. The Camelford
water pollution incident involved a number of people consuming aluminium sulfate.
Investigations of the long-term health effects are still ongoing, but elevated
brain aluminium concentrations have been found in post-mortem examinations of
victims, and further research to determine if there is a link with cerebral
amyloid angiopathy has been commissioned.
Research in this area is not a priority and what research that has been done was
inconclusive; aluminium accumulation may be a consequence of the disease rather
than a causal agent. In any event, if there is any toxicity of aluminium, it
must be via a very specific mechanism, since total human exposure to the element
in the form of naturally occurring clay in soil and dust is enormously large
over a lifetime.
Effect on plants
Aluminium is primary among the factors that reduce plant growth on acid soils.
Although it is generally harmless to plant growth in pH-neutral soils, the
concentration in acid soils of toxic Al3+ cations increases and disturbs root
growth and function.
Most acid soils are saturated with aluminium rather than hydrogen ions. The
acidity of the soil is therefore a result of hydrolysis of aluminium compounds.
This concept of “corrected lime potential” to define the degree of base
saturation in soils became the basis for procedures now used in soil testing
laboratories to determine the “lime requirement” of soils.
Wheat’s adaptation to allow aluminium tolerance is such that the aluminium
induces a release of organic compounds that bind to the harmful aluminium
cations. Sorghum is believed to have the same tolerance mechanism. The first
gene for aluminium tolerance has been identified in wheat. It was shown that
sorghum’s aluminium tolerance is controlled by a single gene, as for wheat. This
is not the case in all plants.
A review of aluminium use, toxicity and symptoms.
EU Environmental Sciences Report
Camelford water pollution incident
The Telegraph on a Silent killer