Aluminium is one of the most common metals found in the Earth’s crust and so it is naturally present in the environment, in many food stuffs and in water. But is it harmful to us? The jury is still out on this one, but read on to make your own mind up.
Why Is Aluminium Found In Water?
Aluminium occurs naturally in the soil, aluminium is found in water.
However, aluminium sulphate (alum) is also used by water companies to help reduce bacterial content including harmful pathogens and clarify the water. It is used both by waste water companies and in the treatment of water from reservoirs and lakes.
How Does Aluminium Get Into Our Body?
Each day we consume about six to seven milligrams of aluminium. Most of it comes from foods which naturally contain the metal – such as tea, coffee, cereals, and some herbs. (Tea is particularly high in aluminium). It is also used in food additives (such as colorants, raising agents and emulsifying agents) and in medicinal treatments (such as antacid treatments).
Other ways aluminium might enter our body is through aluminium packaging (think silver foil around sandwiches and foiled chocolates), from cooking using aluminium pans and from aluminium salts found in some antiperspirant products.
It is also possible to consume some aluminium from our drinking water which represents approximately three percent of our total daily intake.
Aluminium Is Excreted
However, most of the aluminium we swallow is not absorbed, but passes straight through us.
That which persists may also be removed by malic acid, a type of fruit acid found in apples, which binds to aluminium and helps to ‘de-toxify’ excess metal from the body. Other minerals in the diet, such as calcium, may also perform a similar function.
The Link To Alzheimer’s Disease
For quite a long time aluminium has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, a progressive type of dementia and one which devastates the lives of thousands of families each year.
No-one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer’s but there has been enough circumstantial evidence to support the theory that aluminium could be a contributing factor.
Nevertheless, although a lot of research has been undertaken, there is no evidence to support the theory and it is one which is losing ground in some quarters.
Legal Levels Of Aluminium In Water
Due to the concerns that aluminium could damage our health, the government have set legal maximum levels of 200 micro-grams per litre and in 1989 published a document that stated these levels represented good practise and had been set below amounts which might be deemed harmful.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also set a ‘safe’ limit of 0.2mg of aluminium per 1 litre of drinking water – although they stress that levels are not based on a health assessment of the effect of aluminium, but rather of the taste and appearance of the water.
No Cause For Alarm
The current view of the Dept of the Environment, the government body responsible for overseeing the quality of drinking water, is that the levels of aluminium in our drinking water are no cause for concern. The levels are deemed to be safe and are also less than those found in some foods (such as tea and some spices).