Human health risk assessment of aluminium

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People are exposed to aluminium via various sources. Examples are food, personal care products, cleaning agents, soil particles and house dust. Aluminium is also present in some vaccines and medicines, such as certain antacids.

In recent years, there has been public concern that the use of aluminium in personal care products, in particular deodorants, may result in high exposure to aluminium, which can have adverse effects on the nervous system. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has therefore asked the RIVM to estimate the total exposure to aluminium from all relevant sources for the Dutch population, and to identify whether this exposure is associated with a risk.

Total aluminium exposure from food, soil and consumer products such as personal care products and cleaning agents is estimated to be below the health-based guidance value for aluminium, indicating that there is no health risk. In exceptional cases the exposure from these sources exceeds the guidance value, but only to a slight degree.

Food is the main source of aluminium exposure. In particular infant formula and infant foods sometimes contain relatively high levels of aluminium. It is therefore recommended that the aluminium content in these infant products be kept as low as possible. In some clay-based food supplements the level of aluminium can also be high. Adults are therefore advised not to use such supplements for intestinal cleansing on a long-term or frequent basis, and pregnant women should not use them for reducing morning sickness.

The ingestion of soil is another important source of aluminium in children up to 10 years of age, due to their hand-to-mouth behaviour. On the other hand, skin care products (like deodorants and sunscreen) hardly contribute to the body burden of aluminium in children and adults, as aluminium barely penetrates the skin.

Young children have additional exposure to aluminium via vaccinations, but this exposure is only very small. Moreover, aluminium-adjuvanted vaccines have a long history of safe use. For adults, antacids containing aluminium can be a major source of aluminium exposure. Long-term use of this type of antacids is therefore advised against.



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