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.
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
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:
- Diminished kidney function
- Drinking or ingesting substances that are high in aluminum
- Living or working in an environment that contains high levels of aluminum
- Receiving long-term IV nutrition
- Living in dusty environments
If you have any of the following symptoms, see your doctor, especially if you have kidney disease or are on dialysis:
- Muscle weakness
- Bone pain, deformities, and fractures
- 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
- Impaired iron absorption
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.
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The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
- Bone biopsy
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Stool tests
Symptoms and blood tests will suggest aluminum toxicity. Aluminum in the bone marrow will confirm the diagnosis.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
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.
You will be instructed on how to avoid exposure to excess aluminum from your diet and other sources.
To help reduce your chances of getting aluminum toxicity, take steps to avoid the following if they contain aluminum:
Talk to your doctor about your risk of aluminum poisoning from dialysis and total parenteral nutrition solutions.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Environmental Protection Agency
Association of the Chemical Profession of Ontario
Guide to Less Toxic Products
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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. Accessed March 29, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD Last Updated: 8/14/2020