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 physician, 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
Red Blood Cells
You will be asked 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 made by typical symptoms along with high aluminum in the blood. 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.
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, immunizations that contain aluminum, and total parenteral nutrition solutions.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Guide to Less Toxic Products
Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia
Poison Control Centers for Canada
Association of the Chemical Profession of Ontario
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.
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.
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 March 3, 2011. Accessed February 16, 2015.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.