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Aluminium poisoning

Category: Illness or disabilities



Introduction and description


Aluminium is a chemical element in the boron group with symbol Al and atomic number 13.

It is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic, ductile metal, the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon) in the Earth's crust.

It makes up about 8% by weight of the crust, though it is less common in the mantle below.

Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite.

Despite its prevalence in the environment, no known form of life uses aluminium salts metabolically.  Despite its pervasiveness, 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.  And for human beings and other animals it is toxic.

The production of aluminium is also a major consumer of energy and polluter of the environment. As this is a major topic in its own right and affects us all we have explored it in more detail in the Science section.  See Aluminium environmental problems.



Aluminium is a toxin.  It is a toxin partly because the body has no use for it, but also because it does not pass through the body but acts on it.

Brain damage

If aluminium reaches the blood brain barrier it destroys it.  Disease is caused by pathogens – viruses, other toxins, fungi, heavy metals, bacteria, parasites – if the blood brain barrier is destroyed all these can enter the brain – and in those whose barrier has been destroyed they do.  If you look in the brain to find the aluminium causing Alzheimer’s or dementia, you won’t always find it.  This has caused a number of researchers to dismiss the research linking aluminium and brain damage, but they have missed the point.  The pathogen is doing the damage, but the aluminium opened the door for them to enter.


Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1989 Spring;13(1):47-53.  Aluminum-induced neurotoxicity: alterations in membrane function at the blood-brain barrier.  Banks WA1, Kastin AJ.

Aluminum is established as a neurotoxin, although the basis for its toxicity is unknown. It recently has been shown to alter the function of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which regulates exchanges between the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral circulation. The BBB owes its unique properties to the integrity of the cell membranes that comprise it. Aluminum affects some of the membrane-like functions of the BBB. It increases the rate of transmembrane diffusion and selectively changes saturable transport systems without disrupting the integrity of the membranes or altering CNS hemodynamics. Such alterations in the access to the brain of nutrients, hormones, toxins, and drugs could be the basis of CNS dysfunction. Aluminum is capable of altering membrane function at the BBB; many of its effects on the CNS as well as peripheral tissues can be explained by its actions as a membrane toxin.  PMID:  2671833

And you cannot get clearer than that.

Epidemiological investigations have indicated that aluminium (Al) is an important environmental neurotoxicant that may be involved in the aetiology of the cognitive dysfunction associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, exposure to Al is known to cause neurobehavioural abnormalities in animals. PMID:  24973631

How else does it damage the body?

Osteoporosis and other bone diseases

Aluminium is deposited in the bone and the central nervous system, particularly when a person has reduced renal function. Because aluminium competes with calcium for absorption, increased amounts of dietary aluminium contributes to the reduced skeletal mineralization (osteopenia) observed in preterm infants and infants with growth retardation.

Breast and other cancers


Many compounds in the environment have been shown capable of binding to cellular oestrogen receptors and then mimicking the actions of physiological oestrogens. The widespread origin and diversity in chemical structure of these environmental oestrogens is extensive but to date such compounds have been organic and in particular phenolic or carbon ring structures of varying structural complexity. Recent reports of the ability of certain metal ions to also bind to oestrogen receptors and to give rise to oestrogen agonist responses in vitro and in vivo has resulted in the realisation that environmental oestrogens can also be inorganic and such xenoestrogens have been termed metalloestrogens. This report highlights studies which show metalloestrogens to include aluminium, antimony, arsenite, barium, cadmium, chromium (Cr(II)), cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenite, tin and vanadate. The potential for these metal ions to add to the burden of aberrant oestrogen signalling within the human breast is discussed.  PMID:  16489580

Lung disease

Exposure to powdered aluminium or aluminium welding fumes can cause pulmonary fibrosis.

Apoptosis – general cell death, encephalopathy and anaemia

The toxicity of soluble Al forms depends upon the delivered dose of Al(+3) to target tissues. Trivalent Al reacts with water to produce bidentate superoxide coordination spheres [Al(O2)(H2O4)(+2) and Al(H2O)6 (+3)] that after complexation with O2(•-), generate Al superoxides [Al(O2(•))](H2O5)](+2). Semireduced AlO2(•) radicals deplete mitochondrial Fe and promote generation of H2O2, O2 (•-) and OH(•). Thus, it is the Al(+3)-induced formation of oxygen radicals that accounts for the oxidative damage that leads to intrinsic apoptosis. In contrast, the toxicity of the insoluble Al oxides depends primarily on their behavior as particulates. PMID: 25233067

Aluminium sources


In the page on Heavy metal poisoning there is a section that lists the major sources of heavy metal poisoning in general.  These include:

  • Mining
  • Heavy metal processing.
  • Incineration of waste and waste disposal
  • Medical procedures - particularly but not exclusively dental work in aluminium's case
  • Over the counter 'medicines' and 'herbal tonics'
  • Preparation of nuclear fuels
  • Wear and tear - released in tiny particulates as dust
  • Jewellery and other consumables -  which release small quantities of heavy metals the entire time through wear and tear
  • Food chain -  the small size of the particles released from all the above, allows these toxic metals to rise on the wind to be inhaled, or transported onto topsoil or edible plants.

Interestingly, the Poaceae family of plants or true grasses are aluminium tolerant.  Grasslands are estimated to constitute 20% of the vegetation cover of the Earth and one reason may be this tolerance. We have domesticated poaceous cereal crops such as maize (corn), wheat, rice, barley, and millet, but this is not good news because if the soil is in any way polluted, the aluminium will be in the plant, but the plant will appear to thrive.  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.  So it is bound but there.  In effect, all of these staple foods could be toxic, because of our use of aluminium - releasing it into the air and soil.

But it is worth exploring some aluminium specific sources.  In highly acidic solutions aluminium reacts with water to form hydrogen, and in highly alkaline ones to form aluminates. Also, chlorides such as common sodium chloride are well-known sources of corrosion of aluminium.  In effect, it is possible for aluminium to leach into other products in acidic or alkaline conditions.

Water treatment


Aluminium sulfate (Al2(SO4)3·(H2O)18) is produced on the annual scale of several billions of kilograms. About half of the production is used in water treatment.

aluminum (Al) neurotoxicity was suggested after its discovery in the senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that represent the principal neuropathological hallmarks of AD. Al is omnipresent in everyday life and can enter the human body from several sources, most notably from drinking water and food consumption. The evidence supporting association from ingestion of Al from drinking water is somewhat stronger than for its ingestion from food. PMID:  20378957

Food additives and food

Unbelievable but true.  Aluminium sulfate is used as a food additive (E number E173) principally as a colouring.  It is even approved by the EU.

Perhaps a little more worrying it is used in processed cheese, the staple of most children's sandwiches and a fairly key part of many an America's diet in a hamburger.  The chemical is called sodium aluminum phosphate and is used as an emulsifier.

Oral Al bioavailability was determined in the rat from basic [26Al]-sodium aluminum phosphate in a process cheese. Consumption of approximately 1g cheese containing 1.5% or 3% basic SALP resulted in oral Al bioavailability (F) of approximately 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, and time to maximum serum 26Al concentration (Tmax) of 8-9h. …. these results suggest food contributes much more Al to systemic circulation, and potential Al body burden, than does drinking water. PMID:  18436363



Anti-perspirants contain aluminium and aluminium can cross the dermal [skin] boundary.  Aluminum is present most often in antiperspirants in the form of aluminium chlorohydrate. 


Aluminium phosphate (AlPO4) is used in the manufacture of cosmetics

the present review article focused on the problems related to the presence of heavy metals and aluminium in cosmetics, including their sources, concentrations and law regulations as well as danger for the health of these products users. Owing to the growing usage of cosmetics it is necessary to pay special attention to these problems.  PMID:  25809475


Antacids do not always contain aluminium, the chart below from Wikipedia shows which products do


Alkaline ion











Andrews Antacid















Maalox (liquid)






Maalox (tablet)




Milk of Magnesia








Pepto-Bismol Children’s





Rennie (tablets)













































 Under the generic name algeldrate, aluminium hydroxide is used as an antacid. Brand names include Alu-Cap, Aludrox, Gaviscon or Pepsamar.

Aluminium cookware

Many people put salt in food and salt attacks aluminium, thus there will be a constant leaching effect of aluminium from metal pans used to cook food in salt or with salt.  Acidic food left in pans also leaches aluminium.


Any acidic drink or food canned in a container which does not have an internal protective layer will leach aluminium.


Nanoparticle pharmaceuticals 

…. In this study, the sub-acute toxicity of oral zinc aluminium nanocomposite with and without levodopa was assessed using the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines. ….. The kidneys of 500-mg/kg-treated rats with levodopa nanocomposite and LDH nanocomposite were found to have inflammatory changes. ….. The observed result has suggested possible liver and renal toxicity in orally administered levodopa intercalated nanocomposite  PMID:  24948886

Nanoparticles – manufacturing

Human exposure to metal nanoparticles such as silver (Ag), copper (Cu) or aluminum (Al) is very common at work places involving automobile, aerospace industry, gun factories or defense related explosives making. Additional sources of exposure to engineered nanoparticles affecting human health are chemical, electronics and communication industries. The nanoparticles (ca. 20 to 120 nm) easily enter the body through inhalation and are deposited into various tissues and organs including brain, where they could stay there for long periods of time. However, the pathophysiological reactions of nanoparticles in vivo on brain function are still not well known. Previous observations from our laboratory showed that engineered nanoparticles from Ag, Cu or Al (50-60 nm) when administered through systemic or intracerebral routes in rats or mice induce neurotoxicity PMID:  22229317



Tattoo dyes in current use can cause foreign body reactions.

There are no rules regulating the composition of tattoo dyes. We performed elemental analysis on a series of dyes obtained from tattoo studios to determine if any dangerous materials were present. …..Elemental analysis revealed multiple metallic components in the dyes; these materials may be responsible for persistent foreign body reactions even years after being placed in the skin. Silicon, aluminium, titanium and copper were found in various yellow, green and red dyes. ….The tattoo dyes currently in use contain a number of components which cannot be regarded as "tissue inert". PMID:  16281523


We have examined the neurotoxicity of aluminum in humans and animals under various conditions, following different routes of administration, and provide an overview of the various associated disease states. The literature demonstrates clearly negative impacts of aluminum on the nervous system across the age span. In adults, aluminum exposure can lead to apparently age-related neurological deficits resembling Alzheimer's and has been linked to this disease and to the Guamanian variant, ALS-PDC. Similar outcomes have been found in animal models. In addition, injection of aluminum adjuvants in an attempt to model Gulf War syndrome and associated neurological deficits leads to an ALS phenotype in young male mice. In young children, a highly significant correlation exists between the number of pediatric aluminum-adjuvanted vaccines administered and the rate of autism spectrum disorders. PMID:  23609067


Baby foods

During the last years, human newborns have been overexposed to biologically reactive aluminum, with possible relevant consequences on their future health and on their susceptibility to a variety of diseases. Children, newborns and particularly preterm neonates are at an increased risk of aluminum toxicity because of their relative immaturity…. we reviewed the aluminum content in mother's food during the intrauterine life as well as in breast milk and infant formula during lactation. We also determined the possible role of aluminum in parenteral nutrition solutions, in adjuvants of vaccines and in pharmaceutical products. A special focus is placed on the relationship between aluminum overexposure and the insurgence of bone diseases…… Pediatricians and neonatologists must be more concerned about aluminum content in all products our newborns are exposed to, starting from monitoring aluminum concentrations in milk- and soy-based formulas in which, on the basis of recent studies, there is still too much aluminum.  PMID:  24801228

I wonder what 'too much' is?

Waste water and thus environmental recycling via food etc

Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are currently employed by many industries and have different physical and chemical properties from their bulk counterparts that may confer different toxicity. Nanoparticles used or generated in semiconductor manufacturing have the potential to enter the municipal waste stream via wastewater and their ultimate fate in the ecosystem is currently unknown. This study investigates the fate of ENMs used in chemical mechanical planarization (CMP), a polishing process repeatedly utilized in semiconductor manufacturing. …. final sampling point before discharge from the facility, suggested that nanoparticles could be released to the municipal waste stream from industrial sources. PMID: 25437947



Some pharmaceuticals contain aluminium, but there are yet other pharmaceuticals that react with any aluminium in the body or in food and drink consumed, making it even more toxic

In healthy animals drinking tap water, oral citrate administration increased aluminum absorption and, over a 4-week period, increased aluminum deposition in brain and bone by about 2- and 20-fold, respectively. Renal excretion of aluminum is impaired in patients with chronic kidney disease, thereby increasing the risk of toxicity. Based on human and animal studies it can be surmised that patients with CKD who are treated with ferric citrate hydrate to control hyperphosphatemia are likely to experience enhanced absorption of aluminum from food and drinking water, thereby increasing the risk of aluminum overload and toxicity.   PMID: 25341358

 There are more examples we could give, simply because aluminium and its compounds - compounds like alum - appear to be regarded as 'safe' and non toxic, when the evidence is that they are not.  One last example.

Intravesical alum instillation is an increasingly common treatment for hemorrhagic cystitis. It has been claimed that this therapy is safe in patients with renal failure. We report the case of a patient with renal failure following a bone marrow transplantation who developed an acute encephalopathy from apparent aluminum intoxication following intravesical alum. In a review of the literature, we have found two similar cases of acute aluminum intoxication from alum in patients with renal failure who have received multiagent chemotherapy. We suggest that alternate therapies be selected for hemorrhagic cystitis in such patients. PMID: 8418625


How it works

Why do people get visions and hallucinations from aluminium poisoning?

As we saw, Aluminium is a toxin. Thus any one of the illnesses and diseases it causes could be the cause, but one of the more direct reasons for the hallucinations is that, as we saw it causes  ......

Brain damage

If aluminium reaches the blood brain barrier it destroys it.  Disease is caused by pathogens – viruses, other toxins, fungi, heavy metals, bacteria, parasites – if the blood brain barrier is destroyed all these can enter the brain – and in those whose barrier has been destroyed they do.

We have included a number of observations that describe foods and plants that can help heal those with aluminium poisoning, by chelating the metal from the body. 

References and further reading




The photos are of the fashion of Dries van Noten.

  They were chosen because they seemed to combine the rather sombre nature of this subject, but with the added hope that his fashion, with its flamboyant shapes and startling colours seems to express.





  • Rev Lat Am Enfermagem. 2008 Jan-Feb;16(1):151-7.  Aluminum as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.  Ferreira PC1, Piai Kde A, Takayanagui AM, Segura-Muñoz SI.  College of Nursing, University of São Paulo at Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil. sininha83@yahoo.com.br PMID: 18392545
  • Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Jun;46(6):2261-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 Mar 10.  Aluminum bioavailability from basic sodium aluminum phosphate, an approved food additive emulsifying agent, incorporated in cheese.  Yokel RA1, Hicks CL, Florence RL.


Related observations