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Risky recycling: reprocessing can pose major health risks
It has long been known that the absorption of large amounts of aluminum can damage the nervous system, the ability to reproduce and the development of bones in the long term. There is also suspicion that aluminum can trigger Alzheimer's. An international research team has now proven the health hazard of aluminum cooking pots.
When it comes to recycling, raw materials and materials used by humans are saved from the dump. The recycling of secondary raw materials protects nature and the climate. A current research collaboration between the University of Graz and the South African Medical Research Council shows that reprocessing can also go wrong and even pose major health risks.
Relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer's
As the University of Graz explains in a recent announcement, unofficial micro companies in South Africa produce aluminum cookware on their own from old car engines and sell the large, light pots cheaply on markets, on street corners and sometimes also in public facilities such as kindergartens.
“Aluminum is suspected to be involved in the development of various diseases, from Alzheimer's to certain types of cancer. This has long been known in Europe, and very few consumers in Africa are aware of it, ”explains the South African nutritionist Nokulunga Cele.
Health-damaging aluminum content in food
Together with Walter Gössler from the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Graz, the researcher prepared around 300 food samples - consisting primarily of tomato sauce and oatmeal, both staple foods for many people in South Africa - in various aluminum pots from her home country and then tested them.
"The first samples that we took after a short cooking time showed an extremely high aluminum load of over 500 mg / kg," explains Gössler. As the cooking time increased, the aluminum content in the food decreased noticeably, but remained at a level that could affect health.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, aluminum intake of one milligram per kilogram of body weight is considered safe. The first results of the study were recently published in the journal "Science of the Total Environment".
Reduce intake as much as possible
By the way, Gössler gives the all-clear for the aluminum cookware, which is particularly popular with campers in Germany, as long as it does not come into contact with strongly acidic or saline foods.
According to experts, aluminum dishes, aluminum foil or aluminum trays should be avoided. The reduction in aluminum intake can minimize potential health risks, explains the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).
As the experts write on their website, when considering the potential danger of aluminum, effects on the nervous system, on the mental and motor development of offspring and damage to the kidneys and bones are in the foreground.
The acute toxicity of aluminum is low when ingested through food. In healthy people, most of the aluminum ingested is excreted through the kidneys.
In people with kidney diseases, especially chronic renal insufficiency, this elimination route does not work well enough, so that it can accumulate in the body.
But even in healthy people, the light metal can accumulate with frequent and regular intake in the body, especially in the skeletal system, the muscles, the kidney, the liver and the brain. Aluminum that is “stored” in the body is then only slowly excreted. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- University of Graz: Risky recycling, (accessed: March 4, 2020), University of Graz
- Renée A. Street, Angela Mathee, Stefan Tanda, Christoph Hauzenberger, Saloshni Naidoo, Walter Goessler: Recycling of scrap metal into artisanal cookware in the informal sector: A public health threat from multi metal exposure in South Africa; in: Science of the Total Environment, (published: January 10, 2020), Science of the Total Environment
- Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Reduction of aluminum intake can minimize possible health risks, (accessed: March 4, 2020), Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)
- Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Questions and answers on aluminum in food and consumer products, (accessed: March 4, 2020), Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)