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F.ood & H.ealth : Agri. & Environ. Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00


Aluminum pollution linked to death from Alzheimer's disease
By Sue Mueller
Apr 25, 2006, 22:29

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April 25 (foodconsumer.org)- A British woman, 58, died in May 2004 from Alzheimer's disease 16 years after an industrial incident that polluted her local drinking water with 20 tons of aluminum sulfate, nature.com reported on April 21.

The 20 tons of aluminum sulfate were mistakenly unloaded into a local drinking water reservoir used by more than 20,000 people including Cross. The chemical was intended for an early process of waste water treatment.

The link between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease was established as a result of a biopsy of Carole Cross's brain. The biopsy led to the discovery that she suffered a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's and revealed that her brain tissues contained high levels of aluminum.

Although it can't be said that Cross's death was directly caused by aluminum pollution, previous studies have found that aluminum, one of the most common elements seen on earth, can damage the brain tissue by "hijacking certain protein", resulting in some forms of dementia. No biological functions of aluminum have ever been found so far.

Christopher Exley, a chemist at Keele University, UK and Margaret Esiri, a University of Oxford neurologist published the case in detail last year in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and psychiatry (Exley C.& Esiri M. M . J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry, doi:10.1136/jnnp.2005.086553(2006).)

According to Nature.com, citing Esiri as saying, aluminum is firmly linked to some temporary forms of dementia. But the link between aluminum and Alzheimer's is controversial, Daniel Perl, a neuropathologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, was cited as saying. Perl wrote a commentary accompanying the case report.

Perl said aluminum ions are small and highly charged, which make them very reactive and capable of binding to proteins for good.

Many people have been already alerted by the potential aluminum toxicity and have stopped using anything made of or from aluminum or aluminum chemicals from aluminum foil to aluminum alloy containers to aluminum cookware.

Aluminum chemicals are widely used and no one may escape from aluminum pollution. Aluminum sulfate in the case is often used to purify drinking water in many countries including the United States. Because of this, aluminum inevitably remains in drinking water. US EPA allows 0.05 to 0.2 mg aluminum per liter water to remain in drinking water.

Cookware made of aluminum should not be as reactive unless the cookware is used to cook acidic foods such as tomatoes, which would react with the metal, Perl was cited as saying.

Aluminum chemicals are also used in many food ingredients such as artificial colorants and cosmetic products. The bright red, green and blue colors are often a type of artificial colorant called lake, which is made partly of aluminum compounds. Natural colors can't be that bright.




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