Aluminum is the third most common element in the earth’s crust. That element and its compounds are contained in numerous foods and products intended for consumers. Aluminum can occur naturally in certain foods and it can be a part of food additives. Apart from that, it is also possible for aluminum to transfer to food from packaging and tableware. We also can take in aluminum from cosmetic products like whitening toothpaste, lipsticks, particles in sunscreens, and in the form of aluminum chlorohydrate in antiperspirants.
The concern about aluminum intake is related to its effects on the nervous system, on the mental and motor development of children, and upon possible negative effects on the kidneys and bones. When aluminum is ingested via food, its toxicity is low and for healthy people, the kidneys do a good job of excreting it. However, people with chronic kidney disease may not be able to get rid of aluminum as readily and it can accumulate in the body.
Six years ago, a study looked at the amount of aluminum absorbed through the skin from the use of antiperspirants, but the data at that time was considered to be unreliable and a need for further research was identified.
Recently, the results of two new studies have been published by a German research institute that quantifies the absorption of aluminum salts through the skin. The results were that significantly less aluminum is absorbed through the skin than previously calculated and that a significant absorption of aluminum from antiperspirants is unlikely.
The total burden of aluminum from all sources can be high among some population groups, but it appears that use of aluminum-containing antiperspirants is not an important contribution to that burden.
Aluminium in antiperspirants: Low contribution to the total intake of aluminium in humans
Photo courtesy of NutritionFacts.org.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.