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NEWSLETTER 6 : Aluminum (Updated February 2012)
History
Geology
Food
Drinking Water
Pharmaceuticals
Nutraceuticals
Lexicon

History

Aluminum-metal aluminum that is, is a human invention. Metal Aluminum was first isolated by Hans Christian Oersted in 1825 who reacted aluminium chloride (AlCl3) with potassium amalgam, an alloy of potassium and mercury. A bar of aluminum, the new precious metal, was exhibited at the Paris 1855 Exhibition. Read more about the discovery of the metal aluminum

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Geology

Aluminum is one of the eight most abundant elements on earth. Those elements are Oxygen, Silicon, Aluminum, Iron, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium. Together those 8 elements form 98% of the earth crust.

Element Symbol % of total
Oxygen O 46.60
Silicon Si 27.72
Aluminum Al 8.13
Iron Fe 5.00
Calcium Ca 3.63
Sodium Na 2.83
Potassium K 2.59
Magnesium Mg 2.00
All Others . 1.41

Table 1: The eight most common elements of the earth crust by weight.

In nature aluminum does not exist as a metal (Ex).

In nature aluminum exists only combined to other elements, forming most frequently hydroxydes (L), sulfates (L), silicates (L) . In many silicates (Ex) Si4+ ions are replaced by Al3+ ions within the silicate tetrahedral. To maintain charge balance, an extra cation, such as K+, must accompany each of those substitutions.

One quarter substitution of the minerals Si4+ ions by Al3+ ions results in Muscovite (Ex) :
KAl2(AlSi3O10)(OH)2.

Up to half substitution of the minerals Si4+ ions by A3+ ions results in feldspar (Ex) with Na+, K+, or Ca2+ ions to compensate the extra negative charges.

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Aluminum compounds in Food

Since Aluminum is the third most abundant element in the earth's crust, it should not come as a surprise that Aluminum is found in all plants and living organisms. All food contains Aluminum. Table two presents a list of usual food with their aluminum content expressed in micrograms of elemental aluminum per one hundred grams of edible product.

Again:
In food (like in nature) aluminum does not exist as metal. In food aluminum is part of aluminum sulfate or aluminum oxide or other totally harmless compounds.

Food Names Aluminum in Microgram (g) per 100 g Edible Product Food Names Aluminum in Microgram (g) per 100 g Edible Product
Raw Milk 110 Yogurt 150
Parmesan 2,000 Cottage Cheese 190
Grapefruit 100 Avocados 390
Apple 21 Melons 23
Artichoke 110 Tomatoes 45
Radish 260 Broccoli 79
Spinach 970 Brussels Sprouts 420
Rice 110 Corn 350
Corn Flakes 410 Potatoes 110
Brown Sugar 410 White Refined Sugar 42
White Bread 220 Rye Bread 290
Tuna Fresh 79 Cod 52
Abalone 230 Mussels 27,000
Krill 6,300 Beef 100
Chicken Breast 110 Bacon 60

Table 2: Aluminum content of some food in micrograms per 100 grams of edible product Source: Table of Trace Element Contents in Japanese Foodstuffs

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Aluminum in Drinking Water

Alum (aluminum sulfate) is most widely used because it is effective, readily available, and relatively inexpensive. Aluminum sulfate in water produces Aluminum hydroxide (L), a gelatinous insoluble compound that sinks slowly removing waterborne micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses, protozoa) and other small particles.

However, under some circumstances, or if not used properly, aluminum compounds used in water treatment can result in residual aluminum (metal) in finished drinking water.

The EPA has set the maximum acceptable level of aluminum (metal) in freshwater at 750 micrograms par liter

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Aluminum Compounds in Pharmaceuticals

Aluminum Hydroxide (an aluminum compound) is the active component of antacid and antiflatulent products.

Table 3 lists the brand names of some pharmaceuticals and their aluminum hydroxide content per tablet or per Tsp. The table also indicates (in the last column to the right) the daily exposure to aluminum hydroxide of someone following the recommendations of the pharmaceutical companies.

Brand Names Aluminum Hydroxide in One Tablet Advised Number of Tablets per Day Aluminum Hydroxide in One Tsp. Advised Number of Tsp per Day Advised Total Aluminum Hydroxide Intake per Day
Maalox® Tablets 200 mg 1 to 4 tablets 4 times a day . . 3,200 mg
Maalox Forte® Tablets 350 mg 1 to 3 tablets 4 times a day . . 4,200 mg
Maalox Extra Strength® . . 500 mg 2 to 4 Tsp. 4 times a day 8,000 mg
Amphojel® Tablets 600 mg i tablet 5 to 6 times a day . . 3,600 mg
Amphojel® Suspension . . 320 mg 2 Tsp. 5 to 6 times a day 3,840 mg
Basaljel® . . 400 mg 2 Tsp. up to 12 times a day 9,600 mg

Table 3: Source: Physicians' Desk Reference, 1998

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Aluminum Compounds in Nutraceuticals

Since all food contains harmless aluminum compounds, nutraceuticals (L) and particularly natural plant derived nutraceuticals may also contain harmless aluminum compounds.

As an example, the label on the product Majestic Earth from the company Youngevity lists Aluminum sulfate as an ingredient. The analysis of the product shows that one serving of one fl.oz. of Majestic Earth contains 132 mg of aluminum sulfate. This quantity of aluminum compound in one serving of one fl.oz. of the product Majestic Earth is less than 30% of the average aluminum compound content of one antacid tablet The recommended daily dose for Majestic Earth -- two fl. oz per day -- contains about 20 times less aluminum compounds than the average recommended daily dose of an antacid.

Products Aluminum compound in one serving Total Aluminum compound per day
Antiacids 386 mg 5,406 mg
Majestic Earth 132 mg 264 mg

Table 4: Comparison of the average aluminum compounds in antacids and in Majestic Earth

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Lexicon of the Technical Terms

Silicates
The silicates are the largest, the most interesting and the most complicated class of minerals by far. Approximately 30% of all minerals are silicates and some geologists estimate that 90% of the Earth's crust is made up of silicates. Since silicates contain mainly oxygen and silicon -- the two most abundant elements in the earth's crust -- silicates abundance is no real surprise. [ Back to text ]

Aluminum hydroxide is a compound containing aluminum, oxygen and hydrogen. Aluminum hydroxide comes in various combinations of aluminum with oxygen and hydrogen. The pH of the solution determines the type of the combination of the compound and its solubility. [ Back to text ]

Aluminum sulfate is a compound containing aluminum, oxygen and sulfur.

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     Copyright © 2009-2012 Edmond Devroey MD