Exposure to Aluminum and Alzheimer’s
Aluminum has been suggested as a cause for Alzheimer’s, although it is not thought to be the only cause. As of yet, no studies have been able to prove a specific link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s, although there is some evidence that there is some connection.
What Is Aluminum?
The basis for the connection being made between aluminum and Alzheimer’s comes from the fact that is is known to be a neurotoxin. A link has been established between the development of neurological disease and exposure to aluminum over a long period of time, because of the job that a person does for example.
Most people think of aluminum as the metal that is used in construction, the production of vehicles and in household items such as pans. However, it also a non-metallic form that is found in a number of places that you may not expect. 8% of the Earth’s surface is made up of non-metallic aluminum.
In The Environment
Aluminum is found in a number of places in the environment. It occurs naturally in many of the foods that we eat, and is also present in drinking water. It may also be added to processed food during the manufacturing process.
It is also found in cosmetics, and can be added to drugs so that they work more effectively and produce fewer side effects. We may breathe in small amounts of aluminum on a daily basis as it is released into the atmosphere through smoke and dry soil.
In The Body
There is always a presence of aluminum in the body, but it has no role in the normal metabolic function. For this reason, the majority of aluminum that enters our bodies is flushed out by the kidneys as a waste product, rather than being absorbed.
Connection between Aluminum and Alzheimer’s
Although aluminum is abundant in the environment, and can be found in a variety of sources, it is not something that is considered to be essential for life. It is a recognized neurotoxin, and can have adverse effects on the health of animals and plants, as well as humans.
There has been a suggestion that there is a relationship between exposure to aluminum and a variety of neurological degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s. The debate about whether there is any specific connection between Alzheimer’s and aluminum has been going on in the scientific community for a decade or more. It is difficult to say that there is a definite link because the complex characteristics of aluminum make it difficult to establish the levels of toxicity that is has. There are a number of case studies that suggest that a link is present.
A 58 year old Caucasian male from the North of England with no previous medical history was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2003. For the ten years before this, he worked with materials that were used to produce insulation for use in a number of industries such as space and nuclear fuel. As a result he was exposed to aluminum sulphate dust, and this occurred on a daily basis. He was given a dust mask to wear for protection, but it is not thought that this would have offered him adequate protection against the aluminum sulphate.
The man began to suffer from headaches and mouth ulcers almost immediately after he began his job, and first began to have problems with his memory in 1999. He also started to suffer from depression around this time.
In this case, and many other similar cases, it is believed that the aluminum which was breathed in by the main became to accumulate in his brain, after being carried here by his lungs through the olfactory system, which may have a larger role to play in cases of occupational exposure than was first thought.
A Caucasian man (66) who was struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and eventually died, had notably high amount of aluminium in his brain. He had about 3 (2.73) μg/g dry weight, n = 46. This high aluminium content was a direct result of exposure to aluminium at his workplace in a period of more than eight years. (1)
The fact that this individual has developed a fast, aggressive type of Alzheimer’s disease leads us to a conclusion that aluminium was one of the causes of this occurrence. In addition, the continuous exposure to aluminium dust at his workplace had a vital role in the buildup of aluminium in the brain through the lungs and olfactory system.