Aluminum: A naturally occurring element that makes up about 8% of the surface of the earth and is always found combined with other elements such as oxygen, silicon, and fluorine. Aluminum is the most common metallic element in the earth's crust but has no clear biologic role. Everyone is exposed to low levels of aluminum from food, air, and water. Exposure to high levels of aluminum may result in respiratory problems (aluminosis). Inhalation of bauxite (aluminum ore) fumes may cause pulmonary fibrosis. Aluminum in the bloodstream may lead to neurological symptoms and may be fatal.
Aluminum toxicity may occur in people with renal insufficiency who are treated by dialysis with aluminum-contaminated solutions or oral agents that contain aluminum. The clinical manifestations of aluminum toxicity include anemia, bone disease, and progressive dementia with increased concentrations of aluminum in the brain. Prolonged intravenous feeding of preterm infants with solutions containing aluminum is associated with impaired neurologic development.
Aluminum metal is silver-white and flexible. It is often used in cooking utensils, containers, appliances, and building materials. It is also used in paints and fireworks; to produce glass, rubber, and ceramics; and in consumer products such as antacids, astringents, buffered aspirin, food additives, and antiperspirants.
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Last Editorial Review: 6/9/2016