Is aluminium safe?

can aluminium, commonly used to make utensils, be a health hazard? The long-standing question was revived recently with researchers suggesting a possible role of the versatile metal in the death of a British woman. Carole Cross of Camelford village in Cornwall died of Alzheimer's disease 16 years after an industrial accident caused aluminium contamination of drinking water.

A chemical analysis showed that Cross had high levels of aluminium in her brain tissues, say Christopher Exley, a chemist at the Keele University (uk) and Margaret Esiri, a University of Oxford neurologist. Cross did not have a family history of the disease but was predisposed, through a gene called apoe, to a common form of Alzheimer's, says Esiri.

Cross, however, had succumbed to a rare form of Alzheimer's, not to the form she was predisposed to. Whereas the disease usually affects people in their 70s or 80s, Cross was just 58 when she died in 2004. Previous studies of transgenic mice expressing a similar gene have shown that feeding them aluminium in drinking water can cause similar symptoms at a young age.

Cross and 20,000 other people in her village were exposed to aluminium sulphate