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4 Advice to Choose a Aluminum Foil Poisoning Symptoms

Health Risks Of Aluminum Exposure 

Aluminum might seem like a benign metal, one you most likely have in your home (tin foil), and don’t give much thought to, but is it really safe?

The amount of pure aluminum in the environment has been growing over time as aluminum is being used in a wider array of industry and consumer products.

More aluminum in the environment means more aluminum that our bodies are exposed to.

Aluminum doesn’t have any benefit inside the human body, and growing evidence points to its toxicity, raising safety concerns.  

Let’s look at  the science of aluminum today:

  • What is aluminum and the difference between natural aluminum found in ore and pure aluminum metal

  • Where we find aluminum in the environment and the most common places we are exposed in our daily lives

  • How aluminum affects the body and what diseases and conditions it has been linked to

  • Simple steps to reduce aluminum exposure for you and your family

What is aluminum? 

Aluminum is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and the most abundant metal on the planet. Despite its prevalence, living organisms are not known to require or use aluminum. Previous to industrialization, aluminum rarely made its way into the human body. 

In nature, aluminum is not pure. It naturally exists bound up with other elements in ore (in rocks).

It’s only been through the human extraction of aluminum metal from ore that has introduced pure aluminum into the environment and the human body. While the ore is inert, aluminum itself is reactive. 

Aluminum is perceived as a cost-effective and safe natural resource, but as you’ll see, it’s anything but. 

Human Aluminum Exposure 

The truth is aluminum is toxic and we are facing larger environmental exposures than ever before. To meet global demand, industry produces 24 pounds of aluminum metal for each of the 7 billion people on Earth! 

In 1950, most humans were exposed to around 1 mg of aluminum per day and by 2050 this is projected to be 100 mg of aluminum per day

We are exposed to aluminum through: 

  • the food we eat, both in the food itself and how it is prepared,

  • the air we breathe,

  • the water we drink, 

  • the pills we pop

  • and through products we apply to the skin.

We are exposed to aluminum that is intentionally in products, but also through unintentional exposures where aluminum contamination is present. 

Here are the main places where you’ll find aluminum in your daily life:

  • Baking powder, anti-caking agents, artificial colors

  • Baked goods, processed foods, fast food

  • Canned food, including beverages

  • Pots and pans, kitchen appliances and utensils

  • Aluminum foil 

  • Deodorant and antiperspirant

  • Sunscreen

  • Lotion, creams, tanning lotions and other skin care products

  • Hair care products

  • Lipstick and other cosmetics

  • Over-the-counter medications including antacids and aspirin

  • Vaccines, allergy treatments

  • Materials used in dentistry and surgery

  • Occupational exposures, such as mining 

  • Contaminated, low-quality supplements

Through breathing outdoor air, we may be exposed to 1.4 micrograms of aluminum per day and up to 1.4 mg in industrialized areas.

Diet provides anywhere from one to 20 mg of aluminum per day, both in the food itself and from contamination from aluminum cans and cookware. 

Antiperspirants and sunscreens might be the largest contributors to the body burden. One application of antiperspirant contributes two grams of aluminum and you can get five grams of aluminum on your skin from sunscreen use for a single beach day! 

Aluminum can accumulate in the body and is found in bone, organs, tissues, blood, lymph; essentially deposited throughout the body.

The body excretes what aluminum it is able to through the kidneys, digestive tract, and the skin as sweat.

Aluminum Health Effects 

Remember that aluminum is not an element that is used or needed by the body.

Prior to aluminum mining, levels in the human body were quite low. Now, nearly each of us has some level of accumulation in our bodies. 

In the body aluminum acts as: 

  • A pro-oxidant (the opposite of an antioxidant) causing oxidative stress

  • An excitotoxin that overstimulate the nervous system

  • An inflammagen, setting off inflammatory cascades 

  • An immunogen, eliciting an immune response

  • A mutagen or carcinogen, damaging DNA and promoting cell growth

  • A

    microbiome

    disruptor, contributing to dysbiosis 

Because of these actions, aluminum may be a contributor to many diseases throughout the body, from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s to breast cancer.

While disease is often multifactorial, exposures to toxins often play a role

A 2019 review found links between aluminum toxicity and the following conditions:

  • Pneumonia

  • Lung disease

  • Heart disease and stroke

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)

  • Anemia

  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

  • Autism

  • Infertility

  • Liver disease

  • Breast cancer

  • Pancreatic disease

  • Diabetes

Aluminum And Breast Cancer

Aluminum exposure increases breast cancer risk. Systemic aluminum may contribute, along with the concentrated use of aluminum in the under arms from antiperspirants and other skin products, which exposes the breast tissue and lymph nodes to high levels of aluminum. 

The reason aluminum is used in antiperspirants is because it prevents sweating. Ironically, sweating is one of the main ways that aluminum is cleared from the body. From a detoxification perspective, sweating is a good thing!

According to research, Aluminum may cause instability in the DNA and inappropriate cell growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells. In addition, aluminum is an endocrine disruptor, with known estrogen-mimicking effects.

Breast tissue is particularly susceptible to estrogen-like chemicals. 

Antiperspirants and deodorants often contain additional toxins including triclosan, parabens, fragrance and phthalates, which act as endocrine disruptors and contribute to the toxic burden in the area.

The use of deodorants and other under arm cosmetics may increase the risk of breast cancer, especially when use begins at an early age. 

How To Reduce Aluminum 

There is no normal level of aluminum in the body. Because aluminum is so widespread in the environment, the goal isn’t to eliminate all aluminum you come into contact with, or even spend that much time stressing about it.

Instead, a few simple changes in your lifestyle can significantly reduce aluminum exposure.

Let’s focus on the heavy hitters. Here’s how:

1. Use non-aluminum deodorant, such as Sumbody Deodorant, and avoid antiperspirants. Go through all of your personal care products and cosmetics using the EWG Skin Deep Database and upgrade to non-toxic options where indicated. 

2. Choose safe, non-aluminum cookware, such as cast iron, enameled cast iron, stainless steel and glass. While you are ditching aluminum, it is helpful to ditch the plastic as well. 

3. Avoid canned foods and cooking in aluminum foil. Choose whole, fresh foods that you cook at home. Instead of aluminum foil, use baking dishes with lids, parchment paper, reusable silicone baking sheets or a stainless steel basket for grilling. 

4. Drink beverages out of glass rather than aluminum cans or plastic.

5. Filter your drinking water. This simple intervention eliminates a lot of toxins that find their way into the water supply. AquaTru is an easy and affordable countertop option. 

6. Support aluminum excretion. Make sure you are having daily bowel movements,  staying hydrated, and are sweating several times a week. An infrared sauna is powerful detoxification support. 

7. Choose high quality supplements that have been tested for quality and purity. Talk with your doctor about your medications to see if they contain aluminum or other excipients. 

While the larger issue of aluminum mining and use may seem overwhelming, drastically cutting our personal exposures is quite simple and begins with a few steps outlined here.

The first being thinking twice about what we are putting under our arms and on our skin each day. Simple actions have profound impacts for our own health and positively influence those around us. It all starts with knowledge and awareness. 

References

Aluminum foil is super convenient in the kitchen.

You can wrap up foil packets of marinated veggies for the grill, line a baking sheet with foil to cut down on clean up, or cover casseroles in the oven. And don’t forget about storing leftovers in foil!

Most of us don’t think twice about cooking with aluminum foil, but what I’ve uncovered in my research oughta give you pause.

Warning: Cooking with Aluminum Foil is Toxic

The primary issue with aluminum foil is that it can leach aluminum into the food it’s cooked with.

And not just tiny amounts.

A number of studies have looked at aluminum content of foods cooked with aluminum foil, aluminum cookware, and aluminum utensils (even at storing food in aluminum containers), and all of the above can cause aluminum to leach into your food.

Below are some research highlights showing how cooking with aluminum foil is toxic.

Grilled and Baked Fish

How many fish recipes have you read that tell you to wrap the fish in a neat and tidy foil packet? Chefs love it because the flavors infuse into the fish and the foil locks in moisture and gently steams the fillets.

But is cooking in foil packets safe?

One study looked at baked and grilled fish fillets that were wrapped in aluminum foil during cooking and found aluminum concentrations rose by a factor of 2 to 68. (Food Chemistry, 2001)

“All results clearly showed that some aluminium migrated from the aluminium foil into the food.” (Food Chemistry, 2001)

A DOUBLING of aluminum is scary, no doubt, but 68x more? Yikes!

What accounted for the difference?

In this study, grilled fish fillets accumulated more aluminum compared to the baked fish, likely due to higher heat exposure. Also, the longer the fish was in contact with aluminum foil, the more aluminum accumulated.

Acidic ingredients also upped the amount of aluminum that leached into the fish.

So, that grilled salmon recipe that calls for lemon juice? Best to skip the foil packet on that one and choose another cooking method! (psst – Keep reading for safer alternatives to aluminum foil.)

Ground Meat

“Cut down on clean-up by lining your baking sheets with aluminum foil,” they say. But “they” might rethink this advice after reading the following study.

In a 2012 study, the concentration of aluminum was measured in ground meat before and after cooking in aluminum foil.

They tested 6 different “food solutions” (gotta love the not-so-mouth-watering research jargon) containing ingredients such as tomato juice, citric acid, apple vinegar, salt, and spices to see if it affected how much aluminum leached into the food.

Aluminum leaching was found to be highest in acidic solutions (in other words, recipes that contained vinegar, tomato juice or citric acid). (Int. J. Electrochem. Sci., 2012)

That means it’s wise to skip aluminum foil baking pans to make lasagna, meatloaf (coated in tomato sauce), or for cooking marinated meat.

Most alarming, though, was the fact that aluminum levels exceeded recommended upper intakes set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in some samples.

As the researchers put it:

The results clearly indicate that the use of aluminum foil for cooking contributes significantly to the daily intake of aluminum through the cooked foods. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the obtained values are considered to be unacceptable.” (Int. J. Electrochem. Sci., 2012)

Vegetables

Meat and fish are not the only foods prone to accumulating aluminum when cooked in foil or aluminum cooking vessels.

In one study, vegetable extracts were cooked in an aluminum pot and tested for aluminum residues. Six different vegetables were prepared: tomato, onion, potato, green bean, carrots and zucchini. (Int. J. Electrochem. Sci., 2012)

Aluminum leached into every vegetable extract tested, but varied by the type of vegetable, temperature, cooking time, and presence of salt.

Tomatoes accumulated the most aluminum, likely because they are acidic. (For what it’s worth, potatoes accumulated the least).

Consider this food for thought if you line your baking sheets with foil when roasting vegetables, especially acidic veggies, like tomatoes.

Aluminum leaching from cookware isn’t something to take lightly. It can add “large doses” of aluminum into the diet:

“Comparing the present results with the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake of aluminum approved by the FDA/WHO of 1mg/kg body weight per week showed that aluminum leaching from aluminum cookwares in some vegetable extracts may add large doses of aluminum into the diet.” (Int. J. Electrochem. Sci., 2012)

Other Foods

A number of other foods have been tested for aluminum leaching – from foil, cooking vessels, cooking utensils, and even storage in aluminum containers.

I only highlighted a few foods in this post, but everything from lamb, chicken, fish, milk, lentils, tea, and even leafy greens are known to accumulate aluminum when either cooked or stored in contact with aluminum. (Journal of Saudi Chemical Society, 2010; Food Chemistry, 2000; Biological Trace Element Research, 2000)

But maybe you’re not convinced that aluminum is anything to worry about…

Why should we be concerned about cooking with aluminum foil and aluminum leaching into food?

Simply put, aluminum is a toxic metal with no known beneficial effects in the human body.

It preferentially accumulates in the brain and has been linked to neurological problems. (Environmental Research, 2002)

Some research has found high aluminum exposure correlates with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. (J Alzheimers Dis, 2011)

“The hypothesis that aluminum significantly contributes to Alzheimer’s disease is built upon very solid experimental evidence and should not be dismissed. Immediate steps should be taken to lessen human exposure to aluminum, which may be the single most aggravating and avoidable factor related to Alzheimer’s disease.” (J Alzheimers Dis, 2011)

Pregnant women and developing babies are especially vulnerable to aluminum exposure. (I consider it one of the 5 reasons to avoid soy in pregnancy.)

Aluminum can also interfere with normal mineral metabolism in the body, contributing to a specific type of bone softening called aluminum-induced osteomalacia.

The takeaway here: you don’t need aluminum in your body, nor do you want it there.

Whatever you can do to minimize your exposure, the better.

That means finding alternatives to aluminum foil, so you’re not accumulating toxic levels in your body.

Alternatives to Aluminum Foil

If you use aluminum foil to line baking sheets, consider using parchment paper instead. I prefer this brand of unbleached parchment paper. (I often skip lining pans entirely and just use some elbow grease to wash baking pans. Just ensure your metal baking pans are NOT made of aluminum!)

When covering food in the oven (or stovetop), you can try pans that have a lid (like a lidded casserole) or cooking in a dutch oven.

Sometimes, though, you really need the flexibility and non-flammable properties of foil (like when you need to cover a turkey). In that case, I recommend using a layer of parchment paper directly over the food and a layer of foil on top of that. The foil will keep the parchment in place and the parchment will keep the aluminum from actually touching the surface of the food. I use this same method when covering casseroles, like my Low-Carb Lasagne with Zucchini Noodles.

For grilling, consider stainless steel grill pans for vegetables (like this one) or doing the parchment-aluminum foil trick in lieu of straight up foil packets like I described above. (You can cook things “en papillote” (meaning wrapped in parchment paper) in the oven, but this would obviously burn on the grill.)

For storing leftovers, opt for glass storage containers, which don’t leach a thing! I like these glass lock containers. Bonus points: these can go from oven-to-fridge, so they cut down on dishes.

Hopefully this post was helpful to you!

Before you go, I’d love to hear your thoughts on cooking with aluminum foil:

Did you know cooking with aluminum foil was toxic?
Will you stop cooking with aluminum foil after reading this?

Until next week,
Lily

PS – If you know a friend or family member who’s always cooking with aluminum foil, they probably aren’t aware of the dangers.  Keep each other healthy and share this post with them!


References

  • Ertl, Kathrin, and Walter Goessler. “Aluminium in foodstuff and the influence of aluminium foil used for food preparation or short time storage.” Food Additives & Contaminants: Part B 11.2 (2018): 153-159.
  • Bassioni, Ghada, et al. “Risk assessment of using aluminum foil in food preparation.” Int. J. Electrochem. Sci 7.5 (2012): 4498-4509.
  • Ranau, R., J. Oehlenschläger, and H. Steinhart. “Aluminium levels of fish fillets baked and grilled in aluminium foil.” Food Chemistry 73.1 (2001): 1-6.
  • Stahl, Thorsten, et al. “Evaluation of human exposure to aluminum from food and food contact materials.” European Food Research and Technology 244.12 (2018): 2077-2084.
  • Dordevic, Dani, et al. “Aluminum contamination of food during culinary preparation: Case study with aluminum foil and consumers’ preferences.” Food science & nutrition (2019).
  • Cammaerts, M. C., and R. Cammaerts. “Is Metal Leakage from Aluminum Foil without Adverse Effects? A Study on Ants as Models.” J Nutr Health Sci 5.1 (2018): 103.
  • Al Juhaiman, Layla A. “Estimating aluminum leaching from aluminum cookware in different vegetable extracts.” International Journal of Electrochemical Science 7.8 (2012): 7283-7294.
  • Bamji, M. S., and M. Kaladhar. “Risk of increased aluminium burden in the Indian population: contribution from aluminium cookware.” Food Chemistry 70.1 (2000): 57-61.
  • Al Juhaiman, Layla A. “Estimating Aluminum leaching from Aluminum cook wares in different meat extracts and milk.” Journal of Saudi Chemical Society 14.1 (2010): 131-137.
  • Semwal, Anil D., et al. “Leaching of aluminium from utensils during cooking of food.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 86.14 (2006): 2425-2430.
  • Al Zubaidy, Essam AH, Fathia S. Mohammad, and Ghada Bassioni. “Effect of pH, salinity and temperature on aluminum cookware leaching during food preparation.” International Journal of Electrochemical Science 6.12 (2011): 6424-6441.
  • Veríssimo, Marta IS, Joao ABP Oliveira, and M. Teresa SR Gomes. “Leaching of aluminium from cooking pans and food containers.” Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 118.1-2 (2006): 192-197.
  • Bichu, Shrirang, et al. “Relationship between the Use of Aluminum Utensils for Cooking Meals and Chronic Aluminum Toxicity in Patients on Maintenance Hemodialysis: A Case Control Study.” Journal of The Association of Physicians of India 67 (2019): 52.
  • Tietz, Thomas, et al. “Aggregated aluminium exposure: risk assessment for the general population.” Archives of toxicology (2019): 1-19.

4 Advice to Choose a Aluminum Foil Poisoning Symptoms

Warning: Cooking with Aluminum Foil is Toxic

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