Journal of Toxiocology and Environmental Health (JTEH)

Aluminum Toxicity and Human Health:
A Comprehensive Risk Assessment

The McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment recently published a comprehensive review of the potential human health risks associated with exposure to aluminum in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B (Volume 10, Supplement 1) in 2007.  An independent international expert panel convened by the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment conducted the review which was co-sponsored by the International Aluminium Institute and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The published report provides an overview of aluminum including: the identity, physical and chemical properties; analytical methods; toxicological profile; and a comprehensive review of the effects of aluminum on living systems. 
Aluminum is a ubiquitous element, comprising approximately 8% of the Earth’s crust and is used in more than 4,000 different applications.  Occupational exposure to aluminum has been associated with various respiratory disorders such as pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and asthma.  However, it is difficult to attribute these occupational health risks directly to aluminum because of concurrent exposure to several other compounds.  Whether aluminum exposure can have potential health impacts on the general population is still being debated especially with respect to neurological disorders.

Whether aluminum can be harmful depends on several factors including the extent of exposure, its physiochemical properties, type of aluminum preparation, route of administration and physiological status of an individual.  For example, the bioavailability and toxic potency of aluminum are strongly influenced by the chemical speciation (the chemical form of aluminum).

As part of the risk assessment process, the expert panel classified the evidence for each exposure pathway and the associated outcome as strong, modest, and limited or having no clear evidence. This classification guided the exposure assessment, dose-response assessment and risk characterization process by focusing on the effects for which the evidence was judged to be either strong or modest.  The available evidence was used to summarize a series of exposure levels that are of concern for different exposure pathways and corresponding health outcomes. 

Key areas for further research to enable a more comprehensive and complete risk assessment process were identified.  They include: more accurate assessments of air-borne occupational exposures; defining physicochemical properties and bioavailability of aluminum containing aerosols; and the initiation of large-scale, longitudinal studies of occupational exposures to aluminum via inhalation to assess potential respiratory tract diseases and neurological effects.  Further investigations of the potential health effects associated with oral exposure to aluminium and neurological health endpoints were also recommended.  Lastly, a number of gaps in scientific knowledge that require further research were identified including further research to address the pharmacokinetics of aluminium and inter-species extrapolation.

The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B features in-depth critical reviews, both commissioned and unsolicited.  The focus is on environmental toxicology in general as well as special interest fields such as target organ toxicities, immunotoxicology, risk assessment, carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, ecotoxicology, environmental factors affecting health, and aquatic toxicology.  There is also an emphasis on toxicological effects of natural and antropogenic environmental pollutants and their action on both intact organisms and in vitro systems.
Subscription information for the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B or a sample copy can be obtained from the address below.  To view the special issue go to:

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To submit an article, contact:
Dr. Sam Kacew
McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment
Institute of Population Health, Room 310
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 6N5