I accidentally ate a piece of aluminum foil. What are the health consequences, especially with regard to Alzheimer’s disease? It runs in my family, so I’m worried.
For you to swallow the foil accidentally, it must have been pretty small. I seriously doubt that the one-time consumption of a metallic morsel will do you any harm.
Although aluminum is naturally abundant in the environment, prolonged exposure to high levels can have adverse health effects, some of them serious. But aluminum is not believed to cause cancer.
As to a causal relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease, the best I can tell you there probably isn’t one. We still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s and we don’t have a definitive answer about whether aluminum is a risk factor. The only two risk factors we’re certain about are family history and age, with Alzheimer’s affecting most people late in life.
Numerous research studies have not provided solid proof of an Alzheimer’s/aluminum link. Some experts feel that after more than 20 years of research, the lack of compelling evidence effectively rules out aluminum as a possibility. But the subject remains unresolved. The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, a federal agency, thinks it’s premature to draw conclusions: “On the whole, scientists can say only that it is still uncertain whether exposure to aluminum plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease.”
There’s a general consensus that aluminum pots and pans or small amounts of aluminum in food probably do not present a danger to health. But the question of aluminum in drinking water is murkier. Aluminum may leach into the water from the ground or be used as an additive in the purification process. If you’re really concerned about this issue, you might consider having your tap water tested for aluminum content.