Over 50 years ago there was mounting concern about the safety of aluminum. One writer, H. Tomlinson, M.B., Ch.B., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. in his book ALUMINIUM UTENSILS AND DISEASE – The Dangers Inherent In the Widespread Use of the Metal (1958, 1) had this to say …
"There is intense and understandable opposition to the theory of the harmfulness of aluminum, for there is a vast amount of money in the aluminum industry.
An American firm selling stainless steel kitchen equipment advertised through their travelers (salesmen) that aluminum was harmful and advised clients to buy only stainless steel equipment.
The aluminum manufacturers proceeded to get an injunction in the courts restraining the firm in question from making further such statements, and also published papers condemning as unknown cranks one or two people who had published articles showing how lethal aluminum could be.
The arguments used in these publications were quite childish to anyone who has a true and full understanding of the subject, but to one who has not such knowledge, they could seem very reasonable.
Understanding, and a true understanding, is the crux of the matter. Surely if it can be shown that the use of aluminum is harmful to health, then rationally minded people will cease to use it in the kitchen, and also in factories where food is manufactured."
Today, five decades later, many foodstuffs are still contaminated from unnatural aluminum pathways, either from aluminum products that release particles into foods or from absorbed pollutants emitted from aluminum smelters.
Aluminum can be found in many junk and fake foods, for example, raising agents in muffins and donuts. Colored candies almost always have aluminum enhanced food colors and most water utilities use aluminum sulfate to clarify murky drinking water. (2)
It is contained within talcum powder, baby powder, cat-box litter, cement, asphalt mixes, tobacco smoke and ashes and is used as flexible packaging such as cigarette foil and candy wrappers.
Aluminum is found in drugs (including most antacids), buffered aspirin and antiperspirants. Products include beverage cans, aluminum foil, aluminum pots and pans. (3)
In 1963, the United States produced about 11.5 billion aluminum beverage cans. In 1985, over 70 billion were produced (4) . Today American can makers produce about 100 billion aluminum beverage cans a year. (5)
The phosphoric acid in soft drinks (think coca cola and immersed soiled coins), which leaches aluminum from the walls of the can (even if lined), means that each can of beverage delivers aluminum metal to the drinker.
Aluminum is also used in approximately 50% of all cookware manufactured today. (6)
Water containing 1ppm of fluoride boiled for ten minutes in an aluminum pot, will increase the concentration of aluminum to 200 ppm. Prolonged boiling can increase the concentration to 600 ppm. Add acidic food (tomato sauce, for example) and it even goes higher. (7)
So is aluminum safe?
Has scientific endeavor shown beyond reasonable doubt that aluminum is safe to produce and use?
Well, not exactly.
Aluminum has been exempt from testing for safety by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because it is classified as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe).
It has never been tested by the FDA on its safety and there are no restrictions whatever on the amount or use of aluminum. (8)
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency EPA have not evaluated the carcinogenic potential of aluminum in humans (9) even though positive results have been obtained with aluminum compounds administered to laboratory animals. (10)
In regards to negative neurological effect, Prasunpriya Nayak Ph.D., assistant Professor Department of Physiology NRI Medical College & General Hospital states:
"Extensive research on every aspect of aluminum toxicity for the last 35 years proved that the metal should not be taken as safe.
In spite of persistent arguments, it is well accepted that aluminum is a potent neurotoxicant. The risk is more at the perinatal age, because of more vulnerability of neuronal tissues." (11, 12)
This vulnerability has led to many suggestions that aluminum plays an important role in the onset of Alzheimer's Disease via increased permeability of the blood to brain barrier and negatively influencing genetic material. (13,14, 16, 17,18). The vulnerability to genetic interference is enhanced with advanced years when metals have accumulated to a critical level. (19)
In contrast, The Alzheimer Society of Canada, which receives research grants from the government, states:
"At this point, there is no convincing evidence that aluminum increases a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease." (20)
So what's going on?
Independent researchers warn of risk to our long term well being yet government influenced bodies deny there are dangers to our health.
Let's look at aluminum and evidence that is not considered convincing in regards the detrimental effect of aluminum to health.
Aluminum is the third most abundant element of the Earth's crust, behind that of oxygen and silicon. Of the metallic elements, it is the most abundant; 7.3% by mass of the total crust.
Due to aluminum's high affinity to bind with oxygen, it is not found naturally occurring in its elemental state, but only in combined forms such as oxides or silicates. (21)
For many years, because of the high cost of separating aluminum into its pure form, it remained an expensive commodity.
Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have used aluminum plates for his most honored guests at dinner(22)
A major breakthrough was made in 1886 when two unknown scientists called Paul Louis Toussaint Heroult (France) and Charles Martin Hall (USA) working completely independently, simultaneously invented a new electrolytic process. (23)
They discovered that when they dissolved aluminum oxide (alumina) in a bath of molten cryolite and passed a powerful electric current through it, the molten aluminum would be deposited at the bottom of the bath. (24)
This process is the way all aluminum is produced today.
The process produces a quantity of fluoride waste: perfluorocarbons and hydrogen fluoride as gases, and sodium and aluminum fluorides and unused cryolite as particulates. This can be as small as 0.5 kg per ton of aluminum in the best plants in 2007; up to 4 kg per ton of aluminum in older designs. (25)
When commercial smelting began to take off, the price of aluminum dropped and aluminum products became widespread.
Because of its versatile form, the metal's light weight (a third of steel), and numerous material qualities means that products have been designed for use in all areas of modern life.
It is a good conductor of electricity (one kilogram of aluminum cable can carry twice as much electricity as one kilogram of copper) and most overhead and many underground transmission lines are made of aluminum.
Aluminum is a unique metal: strong, durable, flexible, impermeable, lightweight and corrosion-resistant.
Its strength, combined with low density, make it ideal for transport and packaging applications.
Because it transmits conducted heat and reflects radiant heat, it is widely used to produce cooking utensils and foils, radiators and building insulation. (26)
The aluminum industry makes a substantial contribution to the global economy and to many individual national economies in more than 30 countries. Forty-five million tonnes of semi-fabricated aluminum products are produced annually. (27)
For much of the industry's history, the United States was the largest producer of primary aluminum. Since 2000, however, the United States has dropped from the first to the fourth largest producer of aluminum with China, Russia and Canada emerging as the three largest producers.
|World : Total
Despite the drop in production, the United States still produces about $33 billion in products and exports annually and remains the largest consumer of aluminum(28). According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Minerals Yearbook. U.S., aluminum consumption in 2005 was 6.460 million tonnes. (29)
The aluminum industry also spends more than $2 billion annually on energy; the majority is for electricity.
The aluminum industry directly employs over a million people worldwide and indirectly generates four times as many jobs in downstream and service industries. (30)
So where do problems arise?
First, it must be remembered that in most cases non-communicable diseases take many years to develop. These diseases include cancers and brain degeneration and dementia, namely Alzheimer's Disease.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities.
AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Over time symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members or have trouble speaking, reading or writing. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. (31)
AD usually begins after age 60.
Second, it must be remembered the passage aluminum takes through the body. If ingested through dietary sources, aluminum is absorbed from the intestine and excreted mainly through the kidneys. Renal excretion increases many fold in individuals exposed to high levels of aluminum. (32)
Tea drinking containing aluminum will result in significant urinary excretion. (33)
When you ingest aluminum in your food and liquids, very little goes from your stomach into your bloodstream. Most aluminum leaves your body quickly in the feces.
Toxic effects are dependent upon the amount of metal ingested, entry rate, tissue distribution, concentration achieved, and excretion rate.
When the amount of aluminum ingested exceeds the body's excretory capacity, the excess is deposited in various tissues, including nerve tissues, brain, bone, liver, heart, spleen, and muscle.(34)
So is there any evidence aluminum causes cancer?
Cancer is caused by both external factors (tobacco, chemicals, radiation, and infectious organisms) and internal factors (inherited mutations, hormones, immune conditions, and mutations that occur from metabolism). (35)
In 2007, it was estimated that there were more than 12 million new cancer cases worldwide, of which 5.4 million occurred in economically developed countries and 6.7 million in economically developing countries .
By 2050, the global burden is expected to grow to 27 million new cancer cases and 17.5 million cancer deaths. (36)
The most prevalent cancer in the world is breast cancer. There are striking variations in the risk of different cancers by geographic area. Most of the international variation is due to exposure to known or suspected risk factors related to lifestyle or environment.
Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smoking alone is directly responsible for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths annually in the United States. (37)
Worldwide, more than 670,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. The highest rates are in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Western and Northern Europe, whilst the lowest rates are in East and South Central Asia. (38)
Let's look at aluminum smelters and see how the pollutants can enter living systems.
In a Brazilian study, the authors evaluated the relative risk of residential exposure to air pollution from an aluminum plant. The authors used government-compiled data to compare hospital admissions in 1997 for selected respiratory diseases for 2 communities in Brazil. One community, Ouro Preto, was located near an aluminum plant, and the other, Diamantina, was located far from any source of industrial air pollution. (39)
There were significantly different (p <.05) levels of aluminum in the 2 communities; the highest quantities were found near the aluminum plant.
They then compared hospital admissions for the two areas.
Admissions per thousand residents were highest for individuals under 10 yrs of age and for individuals older than 70 yrs of age.
The researches suggested that exposure to greater air pollution in the aluminum plant area (i.e., Ouro Preto, Brazil) versus the control area resulted in statistically significant health effects in those individuals who resided in Ouro Preto.
In a Norwegian study, three sites near the Al-smelter at Årdal in Western Norway were chosen for air pollution from aluminum smelters. (40).
Lysimeter experiments, with four plant species cultivated in polluted soil collected near an aluminum smelter and in unpolluted soil, showed that contents of fluoride and aluminum in plants were highly correlated to the contents of water-soluble and soluble fluoride and aluminum in the soil.
The aluminum contents in leaves and roots were about twice as high when cultivated in polluted soil compared to unpolluted soil. Washed leaves of plants exposed to precipitation had higher aluminum content than leaves from washed, covered plants; on average 84% and 52% over two years.
The researchers concluded results indicated uptake of aluminum dissolved in rainwater through the leaf cuticle. (49)
What effect can elevated levels of aluminum contaminants have on the organic system?
Thirty years ago in the St. Lawrence Estuary, decades of over-hunting had decimated the residing population of beluga whales. Several years after the government put a stop to the practice, the belugas still hadn't recovered.
They were dying of cancer.
The white whales were victims of intestinal cancers caused by industrial pollutants released into the St. Lawrence River by nearby aluminum smelters. (50)
When Canadian marine biologist Daniel Martineau and his group began analyzing beluga carcasses in the early 1980s, they noticed that many of the whales had intestinal tumors.
Over the next 20 years, the group found cancer to be the major cause of death in adult belugas, a surprising finding given the rarity of the disease in wildlife. (51)
27 percent had died of cancer, and 30 percent of the cancers were found in their small intestines. Colon cancer is common in humans and other animals, but small-intestinal cancers are relatively rare. (52)
The 27 percent rate of cancer deaths for the estuary's belugas is similar to the 23 percent rate for humans in the Western world. Martineau noted: " Similar diseases caused by similar circumstances often have similar outcomes."
Belugas in the St. Lawrence Estuary have drawn the most attention because of the estuary's proximity to aluminum smelters. (53)
What about humans? What happens when elevated levels enter the system?
A case-control study, involving 96 patients was undertaken to identify reasons for the exceptionally high incidence of bladder cancer among men in the Chicoutimi census division of the province of Quebec. It revealed an increased risk associated with employment in the electrolysis department of an aluminum reduction plant.(54)
A study that investigated a Norwegian aluminum smelter that operated from 1914 to 1975 found results support previous findings that exposure to coal tar pitch volatiles in the aluminum industry has been associated with increased risk of bladder and lung cancer. (55)
A Swedish study by Björ O et al showed an excess risk of mortality due to chronic obstructive lung disease, mental disorders, and diseases of the digestive system among the short-term workers at a Swedish aluminum smelter. They concluded the results support previous studies that demonstrated an excess risk of lung cancer, but, in contrast to the results of most studies, cancer of the central nervous system was also elevated. (56)
What about neuro problems?
In 1988, the Camelford area of Cornwall, UK, was effected when 20 tons of aluminum sulfate was accidentally dumped into the wrong tank at the treatment works by a lorry driver. This resulted in contaminated water being pumped into the homes of some 20,000 people. . (57)
Despite delay in informing the public of the accident, reports emerged of rashes and gastrointestinal disturbances within days and later musculoskeletal pains.(58)
Following public demand, the government conducted an inquiry into the incident.
The first government report in 1989 was the Clayton Report. It concluded there' had been no long term health effects. The team led by Dame Barbara Clayton flew to Camelford and interviewed several people who had suffered ill health. It then held a press conference to give its view that the symptoms being experienced could not be related to water.
This report still did not allay public anxieties and Clayton was asked to write a second. She stated again that her first conclusion was correct. (59)
Meanwhile, in the summer of 1989, patients started to lose toe and finger nails, and John Eastwood, a renal consultant at St George's hospital, Tooting, south London, was asked, as an independent initiative, to arrange two bone biopsies on patients from North Cornwall.
These showed a discrete layer of aluminum in the deep bone. No official action was taken to follow up the implications of this, and there the matter lay for a decade.
Then a report in the British Medical Journal by Paul Altmann, consultant nephrologist, looked at whether people exposed to drinking water contaminated with the aluminum sulfate in the Camelford area had suffered organic brain damage as opposed to psychological trauma only. (60)
They had previously investigated effects of so called safe, low level aluminum exposure in patients with end stage renal disease who were undergoing haemodialysis. In such patients, the initial epidemic of aluminum related diseases was due to contamination of the water used to prepare dialysate.
They established that people who were exposed to the contaminated water at Camelford suffered considerable damage to cerebral function, which was not related to anxiety. They suggested follow up studies would be required to determine the longer term prognosis for affected individuals.
However, in 2005, a report by a subgroup of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, a scientific committee that advises the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health, said it could find no conclusive link between the poisoning and people's illnesses.
By that time a new development was beginning to unfold.
This development concerned Mrs Carole Cross, 59, who died at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton in 2004. Mrs Cross and her husband, Doug, lived at Camelford at the time of the water poisoning incident and subsequently moved away from the area.
Following her death Mr Cross said:
"I didn't realize there was anything wrong with my wife until about a year or so before she died when she began to show some peculiarities in behavior and memory problems and so on. And from then there was an extremely rapid decline until just before she died she was unable to do virtually anything and no one seemed to have any idea why she was ill. We weren't really aware that she was going to die until a few days before." (61)
In the light of the Camelford incident two of the country's leading scientists examined her brain.
The level of aluminum in parts of his wife's brain was rather similar to what you find in a very extreme form of aluminum poisoning known as dialysis dementia. His wife was not 60 and yet she died of a condition which is much more characteristic of people who are 80 or more.
A second inquest was ordered.
On Aug 4th, 2009, an announcement by coroner for West Somerset, Michael Rose, stated that the inquest at Taunton into the death of Mrs Carole Cross, 59, is to be adjourned until November 1, 2010.
Mr Cross said:
"I have been advised that the medical research which is testing the null hypothesis, that there is no relationship between the presence/severity of congophilic amyloid angiopathy and the aluminum content of affected brain tissue, is not likely to be completed until the late summer of 2010.
"This research is necessary to prove whether or not the high level of aluminum in Mrs Cross's brain causing her death through beta amyloid antiopathy ( a form of cerebrovascular disease) on 19 February 2004 could be attributed to the aluminum sulphate placed in the public water supply at Lowermoor Treatment Works on July 6, 1988.
"My response is, let's get on with the research. The research being done is on brains that have been donated or kept – not on those from north Cornwall," said Mr Cross.
Mr Cross maintained: " The Department of Health are deliberately delaying any investigation into the health of the people affected, until after the coroner's report. I would have thought this was material the coroner should have for an inquest."
Anything else concerning aluminum in our water?
One of the most toxic by-products of aluminum manufacture, sodium fluoride, is added to many public water supplies.
Diseases connected with fluoride ingestion are cancer (of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, large intestine, rectum, kidney, bladder, urinary organs, breast, ovary), goiter, mongolism, kidney disease & osteoporosis.
Symptoms can appear as long as 20 to 30 years later, as fluoride is so very prone to accumulate, not only in the bones and teeth, but also in the soft tissues of the body. (62)
What about other liquid intake?
Research indicates that aluminum concentrations in most cow's milk is 20 times greater than human breast milk (5-20 mcg/l) and 100 times greater in soy-based formulas.
This is substantiated by a study that evaluated the aluminum contents of human milk, cow's milk, and infant formulas.
Aluminum contents were determined by atomic absorption spectrometry in samples of human milk in the colostrum, infant formulas from eight manufacturers: and various types and brands of commercially available cow's milk.
The results showed mean aluminum concentration was lowest in human milk (23.4 ± 9.6 μg/l). Mean aluminum concentration was 70 μg/l in cow's milk, and 226 μg/l in reconstituted infant formulas. Aluminum concentrations in infant formulas differed markedly among manufacturers; concentration in milk from one of the manufacturers was particularly high (mean, 551 μg/l; range, 302-1149 μg/l).
These values are for milk reconstituted with aluminum-free water under laboratory conditions; formulas prepared with tap water in the University Hospital's infant-feeding unit had even higher aluminum content. Experiments showed that aluminum concentration in the high-aluminum milk could be reduced by more than 70% at the manufacturing stage, by using low-aluminum components. (63)
What happens to the contaminated milk when ingested?
Yumoto et al established the incorporation of aluminum into the brain of sucklings through maternal milk that was contaminated with aluminum. They have shown that the level of aluminum increased significantly in the cerebrum, cerebellum, spinal cord, liver and kidneys of suckling rats. (64)
Thus they have concluded that considerable amounts of aluminum taken up into the brain of suckling rats through maternal milk remained in their brain throughout their lifetime(65).
Any links to cancer?
A study by Ganmaa D, et al looked at the incidence and mortality rates of testis and prostate cancers in 42 countries. They were correlated with the dietary practices in these countries using the cancer rates (1988-92) provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the food supply data (1961-90) provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Among the food items that were examined, cheese was most closely correlated with the incidence of testis cancer at ages 20-39, followed by animal fats and milk.
Concerning prostate cancer, milk (1961-90) was most closely correlated with its incidence, followed by meat and coffee.
Any more links to aluminum and cancer?
Recent concerns have been with antiperspirants and connections with breast cancer.
The cause of breast cancer is unknown and is likely to be a combination of generic and environmental factors.
However, there is evidence that skin is permeable to aluminum when applied as antiperspirant. (66)
Scientists have found that the aluminum content of breast tissue and breast tissue fat was significantly higher in the outer regions of the breast, in close proximity to the area where there would be the highest density of antiperspirant.
The daily application of aluminum-based antiperspirants should result in the presence of aluminum in the tissue of the underarm and surrounding areas. (67)
The scientists state:
"However, we have no direct evidence that the aluminum measured in these breast biopsies originated from antiperspirant. An alternative explanation might be that tumorous tissue acts as a 'sink' for systemic aluminum."
It goes on to say that:
"Aluminum in breast tissue might contribute to breast cancer. Aluminum is a metalloestrogen, it is genotoxic, is bound by DNA and has been shown to be carcinogenic. It is also a pro-oxidant and this unusual property might provide a mechanistic basis for any putative carcinogenicity. The confirmed presence of aluminum in breast tissue biopsies highlights its potential as a possible factor in the aetiology of breast cancer". (68)
Apologies to scientists in regards to this article… circumstantial I know but hey... you know what's going on.
Thus it can be seen that H. Tomlinson's concerns regarding aluminum and ill health still remain at large. His worries that money is at the crux of the matter can be seen to be confirmed with the expansion of the industry and the disregard by the health authorities and US government to conduct serious investigations into the role of aluminum intake.
These people putting evidence forward are not cranks, but highly trained individuals in their respective fields.
It's okay that cancer and Alzheimer's societies are telling us that there is no convincing evidence when they are funded by corporations with vested interest.
How do you get convincing evidence if no large scale investigations are taking place?
One can see reasons why the government takes such a neglectful attitude… for what if elements of the aluminum industry was found to be instrumental in the cause of malign disease whereby pollutants transmitted from acid rain and aluminum products entering our food source? End of industry.
While this article is not suggesting aluminum is the definite culprit, it does make the writer question the governments motives.
Is it bowing to corporate influences, not just from the aluminum industry but pharmaceutical interests as well? For it can be imagined if these maladies were prevented it would see a sizable decease in profit.
How do we get governments to conduct a thorough investigation? Perhaps one way would be to threaten those whose role it is deny instigation with neglectful manslaughter charges if sufficient evidence is forthcoming from independent sources.
By the way, Napoleon Bonaparte apparently died of stomach cancer.
Food for thought?