Aluminum (Al) is the third most abundant element on earth but has no known metabolic role in living organisms.

Aluminum adjuvants

An adjuvant is a material added to a vaccine to increase the intensity of the immune response.

Small amounts of an aluminum salt are used as an adjuvant in many common vaccines (e.g., DTP).

In France, the use of aluminum adjuvants has been implicated in a disorder called macrophage myofasciitis (MMF). Its main symptoms are sore muscles and fatigue. Tissue removed from the vaccine injection site in patients with this disorder reveal macrophages containing deposits of aluminum salts. In at least one case, aluminum was still present at the injection site 8 years after the patient had been vaccinated.

However, aluminum deposits may well exist in the tissues of all the many thousands of vaccine recipients (no one has looked yet) and have nothing to do with this rare disorder.

Aluminum in the diet

Higher-than-normal concentrations of aluminum have been associated with weakening of the bones of children on dialysis. The presence of aluminum in the brains of people who have died with Alzheimer's disease has led some to believe that it caused the disease, but there is strong evidence that this is not true. Nonetheless, for this and other reasons, health-conscious cooks have worried that using aluminum saucepans might release enough aluminum into food to produce, over time, toxic accumulations in the body.

There is no question that tiny amounts of aluminum do leach from aluminum cooking vessels, especially when acid foods (like rhubarb) are cooked in them. One study showed that boiling tomatoes (acid, at pH 4.4) in an aluminum saucepan added some 3 ppm of aluminum to the mix (the tomatoes contained three times that before they were cooked).

But before throwing away your aluminum cookware, consider:
Concentration of aluminum (ppm)
Stewed tomatoes cooked in glass9
When cooked in aluminum saucepan12
Cup of tea2.7-4.9
Two teaspoons of antacid83,000
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16 June 2006