Aluminum is all around us. As the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, fully 8 percent of the ground beneath our feet is made up of aluminum. We all consume small amounts of aluminum constantly – in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
As a result, the scientific community has explored for decades the potential human health effects of ordinary environmental exposure to aluminum. The mainstream scientific consensus is clear -- there is no evidence that normal day-to-day use of aluminum products – whether in food, cookware, drinking water, antiperspirants, medicines or cosmetics – causes any adverse health effects.
Myth: Exposure to aluminum causes Alzheimer’s Disease
Fact: Aluminum is not linked to Alzheimer’s disease, the cause (or causes) of which is unknown. In the words of the Alzheimer’s Association, “The research community is generally convinced that aluminum is not a key risk factor in developing Alzheimer's disease.”
The World Health Organization has also concluded that “there is no evidence to support a primary causative role of aluminium in Alzheimer's disease.”
Myth: Aluminum present as an active ingredient in some antiperspirants leads to breast cancer.
Fact: Aluminum is not, nor has it ever been, classified as a carcinogen. Further, there is no convincing scientific evidence that aluminum-based antiperspirant use contributes to the development of breast cancer. Less than 0.02% of aluminum in contact with skin is taken up by the body, the rest being excreted in a very short time.
The American Cancer Society states “There are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim. In fact, a carefully designed epidemiologic study of this issue published in 2002 compared 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women without the disease. The researchers found no link between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, deodorant use, or underarm shaving.”
Myth: Consuming aluminum in antacid pills can cause health problems.
Fact: Aluminum is poorly absorbed by the body. This means that most (at least 99.9%) of aluminum ingested from food and water merely passes through the digestive tract and out of the body. Several studies have found no adverse effects for those who have ingested even large quantities of aluminum-containing antacids from antacids.
Additional reassurance regarding aluminum’s safety can be derived from the fact that frequent users of oral antacids may consume very high quantities of aluminum (e.g. up to 1000 mg/day), several orders of magnitude higher than the intake from ordinary food and water intake, yet no adverse health effects have been demonstrated.
The Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry notes, “An extremely small amount of the aluminum found in antacids [is] absorbed [through ingestion].” And further, “The FDA has determined that aluminum used as food additives and medicinals such as antacids are generally safe.”
Myth: It is dangerous to cook with aluminum pots and pans.
Fact: The Food and Drug Administration studied this issue in the early 1980s and reported no safety concerns from using aluminum cookware. More recently, the Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry reported that “foods cooked in aluminum pots are generally considered to be safe.”
An independent study by America’s Test Kitchen in 2012 found that “In lab tests … tomato sauce … cooked in an aluminum pot for two hours and then stored in the same pot overnight was found to contain only .0024 milligrams of aluminum per cup.” For the sake of comparison, according to the FDA, “the daily aluminum intake for man from all dietary sources can range from 10 to 100 mg per day.” Consumption at this level is considered safe.
Myth: The aluminum salts used to clean municipal drinking water pose a danger to human health.
Fact: Virtually every municipal water purification system in the world uses aluminum salts to remove impurities and provide safe, healthy and accessible drinking water. The global public health benefits enabled by these systems are numerous and have prevented innumerable water-borne diseases.
Health Canada spent 10 years and millions of dollars studying this issue and concluded: “There is no consistent, convincing evidence that aluminum in drinking water causes adverse health effects in humans, and aluminum does not affect the acceptance of drinking water by consumers or interfere with practices for supplying good water.”
Myth: Aluminum contained in certain vaccines make them unsafe.
Fact: Aluminum salts have been used to improve the immune system’s response to vaccines for more than 70 years. Most of the small amount of aluminum used in the vaccinations is quickly expelled by the body. About half of the aluminum is gone in 24 hours; three-quarters is eliminated in two weeks and virtually all of it disappears within three years.
There are recent reports of a neurologic disease called macrophagic myofasciitis (MMF) suspected to be caused by injections of aluminum-containing vaccines. The role of aluminum in the mechanism of this disorder is unclear. The only known undesirable effects that are attributable directly to aluminium salts contained in vaccines are possible local inflammatory reactions, which in some cases are due to the speed of the injection of the vaccine or to insufficient agitation of the vial.
In 2008, the World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) stated: “From the most recent evidence, there is no reason to conclude that a health risk exists as a result of administration of aluminium-containing vaccines. Neither is there any good scientific or clinical basis for recommending any change in vaccination practice.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded that the use of aluminum in vaccines is safe.