There has been concern that exposure to aluminum can increase your risk for Breast Cancer or Alzheimer’s. Let’s look at the evidence and see what the recent science is telling us.
What is aluminum?
Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust. It occurs naturally in soil and water. It cannot be destroyed only change its form or attach to some other particle. Found in combination with oxygen, silicon and fluorine.
Aluminum exposure is regulated in the U.S. in our food, water and consumer products. Actually, most countries regulate aluminum quantities in food, water and products.
All of us have small amounts of aluminum in our bodies. You can measure the amount of aluminum through your blood, bones, feces or urine.
Where can it be found?
Aluminum is found in many of the products we use as well as in nature. Fresh fruits and veggies contain slight amounts of aluminum just from growing in soil. Aluminum occurs naturally in soil and water.
Aluminum is used in many products like cans, pans, airplanes, house siding, roofing, cooking utensils, baking trays, water bottles, drink pouches, flour, baking powder and aluminum foil. Fireworks and explosives also contain aluminum.
Aluminum can be found in products like antacids, astringents, buffered aspirin, food additives, antiperspirants, cosmetics, sun creams, toothpaste and vaccines.
How are we exposed to it?
You can be exposed to aluminum through inhalation (breathing), ingestion (eating and drinking) and dermal (through your skin).
Because aluminum occurs naturally you cannot avoid exposure. It is found in most water and food supplies.
Cooking in aluminum pots can expose you to aluminum but aluminum pots are considered to be safe. You do have options of other cooking surfaces such as stainless steel or glass.
Antacids and buffered aspirin contain aluminum. If you are popping antacids all day long you may want to rethink how you are approaching your stomach acid issues. Do not take antacids without going over the recommended dosage. Same goes for buffered aspirin.
Even breast milk contains low amounts of aluminum.
Is it dangerous?
If you work in a manufacturing environment that exposes you to high levels of aluminum dust (occupational exposure) you are at increased risk for lung and nervous system problems. Industrial workers or smelters at manufacturing plants are at increased risk. Wearing safety gear should eliminate your exposure and decrease your risk of health issues.
When food is heated in foil aluminum can transfer into the food.
If you currently have kidney disease exposure to aluminum through medicines can cause additional health complications. Children with kidney disease who were exposed to high levels of aluminum in their medication have had bone disease complications. Aluminum can prevent the absorption of phosphate a chemical required for healthy bones.
There is currently no evidence for an association between aluminum exposure and the development of breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.
Most aluminum in the form of food or drink is not easily absorbed by the body and it is cleared out by the kidneys.
Aluminum and Breast Cancer
Antiperspirants plug sweat the glands in your armpit in order to stop you from sweating. Deodorants, on the other hand, stop your sweat from being smelly. Most of us like a combo product that stops the wetness and the smell. The concern became, does the aluminum in the antiperspirant absorb through the skin and increase the risk of breast cancer? Aluminum compounds have been in antiperspirants since 1903.
For a chemical to cause cancer it generally has to enter the body in very high doses. One of the functions of your skin is to protect you from harmful substances. Your skin acts as a barrier to the outside world protecting the inner parts of our bodies.
At this time, the answer is NO. The aluminum in your antiperspirant is safe. No evidence of a link between antiperspirants and breast cancer risk increase
1 out of 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life.
Family history of breast cancer increases your risk.
What you can do is eat healthy, get regular exercise and limit alcohol.
Aluminum and Alzheimer’s
The brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease do show elevated aluminum concentrations. It is not clear if this is a cause or effect of the disease.
There are many metals that are present naturally in your brain. Aluminum is present in a normal healthy brain.
There is no strong evidence to support that coming into contact with aluminum in cookware, water or food increases your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Aluminum and Kidney Disease
If you have kidney disease exposure to aluminum through medicines can cause additional health complications.
Those on dialysis are exposed to metals in their medicines and because their kidney function is compromised more metal is stored in the body than eliminated. 95% of aluminum is eliminated by a healthy kidney. People on dialysis have developed bone or brain diseases that doctors think were caused by excess aluminum. Methods of dialysis have improved. The concerns for dementia problems from dialysis have been greatly reduced.
Aluminum Toxicity Risk Factors
- Longtime Exposure
- Working in an environment with aluminum dust
- Living near mines and processing plants
- Living near hazardous waste sites
- Chronic antacid use
- Reduced kidney function
There is a principle of minimizing which means from a medical perspective you should keep your exposure to anything that has potential harm at a minimum. While there is no conclusive evidence that aluminum increases your risks for health complications unless you already have Kidney Disease it isn’t a bad idea to limit your exposure to anything that can be potentially harmful.
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