Aluminum (also known as aluminium) is the Earth’s most abundant metal, so it makes sense that it’s in the majority of things we use each and every day. From silverware to baking soda, it’s everywhere. Here’s what you need to know.
So, What Is Aluminum?
Aluminum is a nonmagnetic metal that is silvery-white in color. It’s also soft. We’ve already mentioned it’s the Earth’s most abundant metal—it takes up 8 percent of the Earth’s mantle crust— but it’s also the Earth’s third-most abundant mineral. Aluminum has incredibly low density and resistance to corrosion. These properties make it vital to various industries, like trucking, aerospace and building.
Aluminum is also found in household and medical items that we use every day. Vaccines, paints, anti-caking agents, food coloring and glass all contain aluminum. Unlike other minerals, your body has no natural need for ingesting aluminum, even though it occurs naturally.
What’s the Normal Exposure Level?
The average adult consumes between 7-9 mg from their food. You can also be exposed to aluminum from inhaling it or absorbing it through your skin. Despite the daily exposure, only a very small amount of aluminum will enter your bloodstream. Once it enters your body, it is typically filtered out by your kidneys. If it isn’t, you can get sick.
So, is it Safe?
That’s where it gets tricky. Many experts agree that aluminum is toxic, but disagree on what constitutes a “safe level.” The majority of people who experience acute toxicity are exposed to it over a long period of time at their workplace or their living environment. Sometimes, acute toxicity can be experienced after long-term aspirin or antacid use. Acute toxicity symptoms include muscle weakness, bone disease, speech problems and seizures.
What Other Health Conditions Can Aluminum Cause?
In addition to acute toxicity, aluminum has been linked to other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. However, these links are preliminary, and more research needs to be done before a conclusive correlation and causation can be drawn.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is a debilitating disease that disrupts the metabolic process, causing brain cells to die. The death of these cells is exhibited through the disease’s symptoms, which include memory loss and personality changes. Over time, the dying brain cells cause the brain to shrink, which ultimately results in death.
The majority of studies conducted on the correlation between AD and aluminum exposure have examined aluminum levels in water. In these studies, as the levels of aluminum in water got higher, so did the number of AD cases. It’s important to note though, that these studies are not completely conclusive, so all of this section’s information should be taken with a grain of salt.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer labels aluminum as a carcinogen. Some studies have theorized that aluminum-tainted deodorants can be linked to cases of breast cancer. In these cases, the breast cancer was found in the upper part of the breast, near where the deodorant was applied. However, similar to the AD case studies, these results are very preliminary and shouldn’t be considered as a hard and fast rule.
Even though nothing has been found conclusive, there is enough evidence to warrant concern over aluminum’s safety. Try to use aluminum-free, all-natural products to limit your exposure level. If you’re concerned about aluminum and your exposure, talk to your doctor.