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Aluminum Toxicity

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Definition

Aluminum toxicity occurs when a person ingests or breathes high levels of aluminum into the body.

Aluminum is the most plentiful metal in the earth’s crust. It is present in the environment combined with other elements such as oxygen, silicon, and fluorine.

Exposure to aluminum is usually not harmful, but exposure to high levels can cause serious health problems. If you think you have been exposed to high levels of aluminum, contact your doctor.

Causes

Because aluminum is found in food, water, air, and soil, people may be exposed to high levels of aluminum when they:

  • Drink or ingest substances containing high levels of aluminum
  • Breath aluminum dust in workplace air
  • Live where aluminum is mined or processed
  • Live near certain hazardous waste sites
  • Live where aluminum is naturally high

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop this condition, but certain people are more likely to develop aluminum toxicity. The following factors increase your chances of developing aluminum toxicity. If you have either of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • Diminished kidney function
  • Hemodialysis
  • Drinking or ingesting substances that are high in aluminum
  • Living or working in an environment that contains high levels of aluminum
  • Receiving long-term intravenous nutrition
  • Live in dusty environments

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is because of aluminum toxicity. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician, especially if you have kidney disease or are on dialysis .

  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bone pain, deformities, and fractures
  • Seizures
  • Speech problems
  • Slow growth—in children

Complications may include:

  • Lung problems
  • Nervous system problems causing difficulty with voluntary and involuntary actions
  • Bone diseases
  • Brain diseases and disorders
  • Anemia
  • Impaired iron absorption
Red Blood Cells
Red blood cells new
These vital cells transport oxygen through the body. Symptoms of aluminum toxicity such as anemia and impaired iron absorption decrease the number of red blood cells.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include the following:

  • Bone biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Stool tests

The diagnosis is usually make by typical symptoms along with high aluminum in the blood. Aluminum in the bone marrow will confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Medications

The medication, deferoxamine mesylate, may be given to help eliminate aluminum from your body. This substance works through a procedure known as chelation, which helps the body remove poisonous materials.

Aluminum Avoidance

Your doctor can instruct you on how to avoid exposure to excess aluminum from your diet and other sources.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of getting aluminum toxicity, take steps to avoid the following if they contain aluminum:

  • Antacids
  • Antiperspirants

Talk to your doctor about your risk of aluminum poisoning from dialysis, immunizations that contain aluminum, and total parenteral nutrition solutions.

Revision Information

  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

    http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov

  • Environmental Protection Agency

    http://www.epa.gov

  • Guide to Less Toxic Products

    Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia

    http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca

  • Poison Control Centers for Canada

    Association of the Chemical Profession of Ontario

    http://www.acpo.on.ca

  • Andia JB. Aluminum toxicity: its relationship with bone and iron metabolism. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 1996; 11 Suppl 3:69-73.

  • Bia MJ, Cooper K, et al. Aluminum induced anemia: pathogenesis and treatment in patients on chronic dialysis. Kidney Int. 1989 Nov;36(5):852-8.

  • Delmez J, Weerts C, et al. Accelerated removal of deferoxamine mesylate-chelated aluminum by charcoal hyperfusion in hemodialysis patients. Am J Kidney Disease. 1989 Apr;13(4):308-11.

  • D’Haese PC, Couttenye MM, et al. Use of the low-dose desferrioxamine test to diagnose and differentiate between patients with aluminum-related bone disease, increased risk for aluminum toxicity, or aluminium overload. Nephrol dial Transplant . 1995;10:1874-84.

  • Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Internal Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008.

  • Kawahara M. Effects of aluminum on the nervous system and its possible link with neurodegenerative diseases. J Alzheimers Dis . 2005;8:171-82.

  • Krewski D, Yokei RA, Nieboer E et al: Human health risk assessment for aluminium, aluminium oxide, and aluminium hydroxide. J Toxicol Environ Health b Crit Rev . 2007:10 supl 1: 1-269

  • Malluche HH. Aluminum and bone disease in chronic renal failure. Nephrol dial Transplant . 2002; 17:21-24.

  • Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine .7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc.; 2009.

  • Molloy DW, Standish TI, Nieboer E et al: Effects of acute exposure to aluminum on cognition in humans. J Toxicol Environ Health . A 2007: 70:2011-9

  • Toxic substances portal: Aluminum. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=190&tid=34#bookmark08. Updated October 27, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2013.