Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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CAS No 7429-90-5

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Aluminium is a silver-white light metal that occurs naturally on earth. Aluminium is released into the environment e.g. through industrial processes or oxidation of aluminium components.
S.a.u. C.I. 77000 (INCI)

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Aluminium in food (E 173): Aluminium and its compounds are present as a metal pigment in many foodstuffs (declaration under E 173). Aluminium compounds are permitted as colouring agents in foodstuffs, here exclusively for coatings of confectionery and for decorative purposes in certain fine bakery products.

Occurrence of aluminium in untreated natural foods: Aluminium compounds are already present in untreated natural foods (no declaration). Their content is stated as < 5 mg/kg (EFSA). Some foods (e.g. bakery products, various vegetables and especially tea leaves and spices) may also have higher contents.

Aluminium in cosmetics: Aluminium and its salts are found in many cosmetics and deodorants. Aluminium compounds can be found as colour pigments in lipstick, as aluminium fluoride in toothpaste or in certain sunscreens.

Aluminium in pharmaceuticals: Aluminium salts have been used for > 80 years in vaccines as adjuvants to enhance the efficacy. The vaccine antigens are adsorbed to poorly soluble aluminium compounds (aluminium hydroxide or aluminium phosphate).

Aluminum as antianzida: Alumium compounds are used (increasingly less) as antiazida. The increased absorption in inflammatory intestinal diseases and the reduced excretion in chronic renal insufficiency should be noted.

Elimination and metabolism
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Uptake of alumium: Humans take up aluminium mainly through food and drinking water, but also through aluminium-containing consumer products such as tableware or food packaging (!), cosmetic products such as aluminium-containing antiperspirants (see below aluminium chloride hexahydrate) or medicines.

The tolerable weekly oral intake (TWI) was specified by the EFSA as 1 mg (milligram) aluminium/kg bw (per kilogram body weight).

Aluminium can be absorbed through the skin. A maximum of 0.01% of the amount of aluminium applied is absorbed through the skin. The absorption depends on the condition of the skin surface. For example, transdermal aluminium absorption via aintitranspirants can be reduced by not applying them to the skin immediately after shaving the axel hairs (micro injuries of the skin).

Alumium is excreted via the kidneys.

Undesirable effects
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Acute toxicity:

  • The acute toxicity of aluminium is very low. In healthy people, aluminium is excreted nephrogenically. In case of chronic renal insufficiency it can lead to accumulations in the body. But even in healthy people, aluminium accumulates in the body over the course of life, especially in the lungs and the skeletal system.
  • Vaccine granulomas: In rare cases, granulomas and also sterile abscesses can develop during the subcutaneous injection of aluminium-bound vaccines. These tend to heal spontaneously.
  • Macrophagic myofasciitis: A possible but very rare complication of aluminium-bound vaccines is "macrophagic myofasciitis", an inflammatory change in the musculature limited to the site of injection. In this myositis, crystalline aluminium hydroxide inclusions were found in macrophages.

Long-term consequences of chronic intake of aluminium:

With regard to the long-term effects, there are scientific uncertainties in their evaluation. In particular, there is a lack of reliable data on the actual amounts of aluminium absorbed through the skin. For example, the tolerable intake is probably exhausted for a part of the population through food alone. In the case of additional long-term use of cosmetic products containing aluminium, this guideline value could be exceeded.

  • Neurological damage caused by aluminium: Aluminium is considered a neurotoxin. Numerous studies postulate a connection between aluminium intake and Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and forms of dementia (not yet proven beyond doubt). It has been scientifically proven that high aluminium doses lead to nerve-damaging effects in humans.
  • Development of carcinomas caused by aluminium: Evidence of a possible connection between increased aluminium intake and the development of breast cancer is provided by various studies. Studies of tumour patients whose aluminium levels in breast tissue were elevated. Aluminium can displace oestradiol from its oestrogen receptor ("metal estrogen"). Aluminium induces the growth of human MCF10A breast epithelial cells, but not the oestrogen-induced growth of human MCF-7 breast carcinoma cells. According to current knowledge, a clear connection between an increased aluminium intake and the development of breast cancer cannot be scientifically proven due to the contradictory data situation (BfR 2014)

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Aluminium is soluble under the influence of acid or salt. For this reason, packaging and containers for foodstuffs are coated on their inside. Aluminium can, for example, change from aluminium foil to acid and salt containing food. This type of packaging should be avoided.

Aluminium absorption via antiperspirants can be reduced by not applying them to the skin immediately after shaving. In addition, deodorants without aluminium salts are available in stores.

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020