Exley: Surviving in the Aluminum Age

We are living in the Aluminum Age.1 In our school lessons on human history, we learned all about the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, but will school­children in the future be taught about the Aluminum Age? I use this term to describe the period from the late nine­teenth century—when we discovered how to make alumi­num metal and its salts cheaply and efficiently—until the present day, when myriad aluminum-containing products pervade every aspect of our lives.

The advent of the Aluminum Age heralded the modern world we know today. Aluminum is a feature of our food, our drinks, our medicines, our cosmetics and our environment. So, in a “Gordon Gekko” sort of way, we might say that aluminum (like greed) is good! However, our expectation with all “good things,” including those containing aluminum, is that they also be safe—at least, as they say, when exposed “in moderation.”

We have been brought up to believe in au­thority and to respect the opinions of experts and expert committees. In turn, we expect learned bodies and societies to be committed to our well-being. All of these values may be evident for other facets of modern life, but they do not apply to, nor have they been applied to, human exposure to aluminum.2 Many will be incredu­lous to learn that in the Aluminum Age, there are no health-based standards or regulations relating to human exposure to aluminum. Nor are there laws protecting us from aluminum in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the cosmetics we use, the medicines we need, the supplements we take or—I could go on. Aluminum is everywhere, and the result of living in the Aluminum Age is that every one of the cells that make up our body includes at least a few atoms of aluminum.


Why should we be concerned that we are ac­cumulating aluminum in our bodies as we age? The answer is that while the aluminum industry has long perpetuated the myth that aluminum is benign, nontoxic and even safe, nothing could be further from the truth….


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