Aluminum is one of the most commonly used metals in the world. We use aluminum in soda cans, cookware, bicycles, and more. Aluminum is a non-porous yet lightweight metal that is ideal for use in everyday applications.
Though whole pieces of solid aluminum pose few threats to people, its pulverized form is another matter. Aluminum dust poses significant risks in industrial settings, which is why safety regulations require the use of aluminum dust collectors to prevent it from scattering.
Aluminum dust is a known combustible, causing dust explosions when ignited. Studies, however, show that aluminum dust inhalation may also contribute to brain damage.
Aluminum and the Nervous System
Though aluminum inhalation is not immediately dangerous, it does cause irritation to the lungs, resulting in coughs and shortness of breath. Inhaling large amounts of aluminum dust may even cause changes in the patient’s x-rays.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), some industrial workers experience decreased performance on tests that measure nervous system functions.
When the dust enters the lungs, it begins to oxidize, causing a condition known as oxidative stress. From the lungs, the oxidized aluminum travels through the bloodstream, eventually entering the brain and other internal organs, such as the liver. Repeated exposure may cause neurological issues and decreased cognitive function.
Aluminum and Its Link to Alzheimer’s Disease
High aluminum levels in the body are linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. There was a study conducted on a 66-year-old man who had more than eight years of occupational exposure to aluminum dust.
The dust coated his lungs and the inner lining of his nose and sinuses, which eventually accumulated in the brain. He developed an aggressive form of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease causes a slew of symptoms, including memory loss, dementia, and problems with speaking and writing.
Aluminum dust exposure has damaging effects on the brain. This is why it is important to follow proper safety procedures in industrial settings, including the use of face masks and dust collecting equipment.