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Reducing Aluminium Intake Can Minimize Potential Health Risks

BFR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment via EurekAlert – Consumers can take up aluminium compounds from various sources, such as food, cosmetic products like aluminum containing antiperspirants and toothpaste, food contact materials like uncoated aluminum menu or baking trays and drugs. For the first time, the BfR has now estimated the total aluminum intake for different age groups (infants, children and adolescents as well as adults) and carried out a risk assessment.

In addition, the contributions of the various sources of total aluminium intake by the population were compared with one another. A high intake of aluminium compounds can cause, among other things, neurotoxic developmental disorders as well as damage the kidneys, liver and bones.

The BfR bases its assessment of the population’s aluminium intake from food on the latest consumption and concentration data. Consumption data are collected through consumer surveys and provide information on which foods and how much of them are eaten by different consumer groups. The concentration data used show the average aluminium concentrations in the different food categories. For non-food products, such as cosmetics or packaging, the exposure assessment is also based on data regarding aluminium contents in the products. Furthermore, typical application forms and quantities are taken into account.

For the risk assessment of aluminium intake, the BfR uses the tolerable weekly intake (TWI) derived from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of 1 milligram aluminium per kilogram body weight.

The BfR’s assessment shows that aluminium intake from food is lower compared to previous studies. Food is still a relevant, but no longer the population’s main source of intake. If other relevant sources of aluminium intake are taken into account, such as aluminium containing cosmetic products and uncoated food contact materials, the total intake can exhaust or even exceed the TWI for all age groups.

Consumers can influence their aluminium intake. Those who want to reduce their aluminium intake should use aluminium containing antiperspirants and toothpaste sparingly. When it comes to food, the BfR recommends a varied diet as well as alternating products and brands. This can contribute to reducing the risk of permanently high aluminium intake caused by individual highly contaminated products. The BfR recommends, also for other reasons, exclusively breastfeeding infants in the first six months of life, if possible. The BfR generally advises against the preparation and storage of, in particular, acidic and salty foods in uncoated aluminium articles or aluminium foil. If the aforementioned and avoidable sources of intake are reduced, most consumers are not expected to suffer any adverse health effects.

The BfR recommends that manufacturers take appropriate measures to reduce the amount of aluminium in food. These may include, for example, using raw materials with low aluminium content or coated materials for processing and packaging food.

There is still a high level of uncertainty in aluminium risk assessment because important data is still missing or can be interpreted differently. This concerns, for example, the question of how much aluminium is actually absorbed through the skin as well as the possible occurrence of certain long-term consequences of chronic exposure to aluminium.

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