It’s strange — I haven’t been on a quest to seek out all of the ‘hidden’ sources of aluminum in our daily lives — but once I became aware that aluminum is a neurotoxic substance, I began noticing it everywhere. Each time I discover another way aluminum is used commonly and carelessly in the items we use daily, and without concern, I feel incredibly incredulous!! For more detail about all things aluminum, read this post.
I will continue to update the list below. Most surprising and insidious ‘daily’ aluminum application thus far = sandpaper.
Primary [direct] Sources – those which pose direct toxin exposure
- Airplane fuel – not sure if aluminum is used in airplane fuel currently – I wouldn’t be surprised. It most certainly was in the not too distant past.
- Baking Powder – even aluminum free baking powder. Make a homemade alternative: 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon corn starch (to prevent caking).
- Cosmetics – makeup and potentially moisturizer. Make your own moisturizer! If you can’t right now, you can purchase from Vintage Traditions or Toups Organics.
- Canned food cans – used as part of the ‘alloy’ for the inside coating
- Ceramics/Pottery – aluminum oxide is used in glazes far and wide, including the healthiest tested brands, such as Le Creuset, Xtrema and others. It is considered standard and while it may not leach (I don’t know if it does or not) into the food, it is still used nonetheless. Many potters no longer use the ingredients in their clay or glazes that are widely considered toxic now, such as lead, or even strontium. But I’m pretty sure all still use aluminum oxide, some of which I’ve been told is ‘naturally occurring’ in the clay, and some which sounds like is being added to the glaze. I would like to know why a heavy metal like lead would be thought to be more likely to ‘leach’ into foods kept in pottery, moreso than another heavy metal like aluminum, or a cadmium, etc. In conversation with a potter, they told me that adding aluminum oxide actually helps harden the glaze, allegedly making the glaze less susceptible to leaching of anything, as the aluminum oxide increases the firing temperature, but it still doesn’t all gel to me. There is chemistry information about feldspars and other fun stuff which you can read about here: https://digitalfire.com/4sight/oxide/al2o3.html, but still, it doesn’t all make sense. Why are people still concerned about glazes leaching then? Hopefully the answer will become clear.
- Deodorant & antiperspirants – aluminum is the ingredient which easily and cheaply makes deodorant & antiperspirants ‘effective.’ Find non-toxic alternatives here, like magnesium oil – works like a charm for me! But so does homemade olive oil and beeswax salve.
- Flooring – pre-finished flooring like vinyl and wood are finished with aluminum to make them more ‘durable’, I think? Another reason to find a local wood floor installer, like Spring Green Timber Growers, (also seen here). Spring Green Timber Growers harvests wood from their land, and that means you know it is straight up wood. Wood that is brought in from other countries and across borders is often, if not always, fumigated to kill any stowaway insects or other live material. It is possible that Home Depot might sell some wood (unfinished!!) flooring that is sourced and milled in this country the USA, but you have to do your homework…and again, finishing…. Beware of other ‘green’ flooring materials, such as cork. I’ve heard of a company that no longer uses toxic binder to make the cork, but rather, a baking process invented by Amorim, I believe, but they use it to make ‘thermocork’ insulation blocks. I’m not sure if they use the technology for flooring.
- Jar lids – if your bottle of liquid is laying horizontal or upside down, there is aluminum leaching into your liquid or potentially food. I don’t know if aluminum can be released through vapor coming from foods or liquids stored in a jar, hitting the underside of a lid, and potentially mixing back into the jar contents. There are some jars that come with stainless steel lids, like these spice jars, but I don’t know of any sources for steel mason jar lids at a price I can afford, nor do I know of steel lids that provide leak-roof insurance for any other jar.
- Pots and pans – aluminum. All pots and pans, regardless of what material they’re made of, leach the material from which they’re made into your food. Aluminum is no exception.
- Rocket fuel – you know, from the fun rockets we spend trillions of dollars on so we can eventually find another planet to live on? Think Bladerunner 2049.
- Salt – maybe don’t use the salt shaker when you’re out to dinner. I’ve heard that aluminum is added to salt as an anti-caking agent.
- Sandpaper. “Aluminum oxide is one of the most common sand paper abrasives, and works well for sanding both wood and metal. As you sand, the aluminum oxide particles crack and break off, which means that sharp new points are constantly being exposed. This helps the aluminum oxide sandpaper to last longer than other types of sandpaper.” – Paul Bianchina. Did you read that carefully? As you sand, tiny aluminum particles are cracking and breaking off, and you are breathing it in! To see how prevalent the aluminum sandpaper is, I looked at the back of the sandpaper sheet I bought last week at Ace Hardware – it says “Gator P400 Ceramax.” I searched this online and now know that the sandpaper I was using is a blend of ceramic and aluminum grain/abrasive. VERY BAD. Alternatives include:
- Garnet: Garnet sandpaper is a good choice for woodworking. The particles don’t crack off the way the aluminum oxide does, which means that the sandpaper dulls as you use it. So while garnet paper wears out faster, it tends to create a smoother surface on wood than aluminum oxide paper of the same grit. This can be a definite advantage for the final finishing of woodworking projects.
- Ceramic: Ceramic particles are very hard but not overly sharp, and are also on the expensive side. They work especially well for the fast removal of material, particularly in woodworking. They’re most commonly found on the belts used for belt and drum sanders, and some types of disk sanders.
- Silicon Carbide is also used as an alternative for use on plastic of fiberglass. I don’t know what the manufacturing processes to make garnet or ceramic sandpapers include, but the process to make silicon carbide is harmful to the environment, with the use of cancer-causing plasticizers and cancer-causing calcium carbide.
- wood scrapers: card scrapers and cabinet scrapers. These are a great alternative to sandpaper to get wood ready for finishing. The technique to use them involves running them over the wood while bending them a bit. Here are some for sale on Amazon, but I have no idea if these are the ideal scrapers to buy.
I knew one man who made his own scrapers.
In the words of renowned woodwork Paul Sellers, metal woodworking scrapers are “simple, effective and unequalled,” and “You should be able to get the same results with the cabinet scraper as you get with the so-called card scraper. Though you may not believe it and you may not know it, but sandpaper is always used by craftsmen to roughen the surface and not smooth it. We use more sandpaper today than ever before in the history of woodworking as a direct result of NOT having the skills to sharpen and use cabinet scrapers and planes [like in this article and tutorial], which is to remove flawed surfaces made by machines.”
Highland woodworking says “A well-sharpened scraper can cut your finishing time in half, doing the work of sandpaper from 60 to 150 grit. With a cabinet scraper, bare wood can be taken from thickness planer to fine sanding in one step, and finishes can be smoothed and flattened between coats more effectively than with the most sophisticated abrasives.” They also have a link to a scraper use tutorial in that article.
- Sunscreen – often aluminum is used to make it more ‘spreadable’. Find non-toxic spreadable, water-resistant recipe at Holistic Squid’s blog that will keep for a year unrefrigerated. On cooler mornings, she adds some oil to the amount she squeezes out as the cooler temp can change the consistency slightly. If you don’t want to make it, here are three brands I recommend: Babo Botanicals spread-on, Babo Botanicals sport stick (sodium benzoate-free), or Babo Botanicals non-aerosol spray, Badger, and Kabana Green Screen, which, according to Maia from GimmetheGoodStuff.org, has an SPF of 35, is made with only six organic ingredients, and is fortified with the U.S. recommended daily allowance of vitamin D3 (400 IU per ounce of sunscreen). Green Screen contains uses non-nano, non-micronized particles of zinc oxide.
- Teeth – Porcelain. As it was standard to use mercury to make ‘amalgam’ dental fillings, it is common practice to use aluminum oxide to make porcelain teeth. Did you know that many potters have the necessary skill to also make porcelain teeth? Makes sense, when you think about porcelain ‘pottery’!
- Vaccines – terrible and ridiculous exposure to aluminum, along with other neurotoxic and harmful substances. Vaccines like the Hepatitis B contain 1500 mcg of aluminum!!! Aluminum is used as an adjuvant, to elicit an immune response, as the killed virus or bacteria often won’t elicit enough of an immune response on its own. Discover the lesser known side of vaccines and their ‘effectiveness’ here. Alternatives? Read the post above, as well as the post: Vaccine Information Resources. If you think aluminum entering the body via vaccines is nothing to worry about, consider this:
“In early December 2017, Dr. Chris Exley of Keele University in England and his colleagues published a paper that for the first time looked at the brain tissue of subjects with autism to determine the level of aluminum (note: they spell “aluminum” as “aluminium” in the United Kingdom) found within their brain tissue. For anyone trying to convince the world that “the science is settled and vaccines don’t cause autism,” the study’s findings are deeply contradictory to that statement. In a blog post written by Professor Exley on the day his study was published, he explained the groundbreaking results:
“…while the aluminium content of each of the 5 brains [of people with autism] was shockingly high it was the location of the aluminium in the brain tissue which served as the standout observation…The new evidence strongly suggests that aluminium is entering the brain in ASD [autism spectrum disorders] via pro-inflammatory cells which have become loaded up with aluminium in the blood and/or lymph, much as has been demonstrated for monocytes at injection sites for vaccines including aluminium adjuvants.”
- Water (especially treated drinking water) – water drinking treatment plants often use aluminum as coagulants. Some plants that don’t have source water with turbidity have transitioned to safer ferric materials as coagulants. Some claim that ferric material won’t be effective as a coagulant in water with high turbidity, however, no one was able to share any case studies or studies that prove this, when I asked. Find more information in my post about drinking water here.
- Water filters meant to filter out fluoride and arsenic, like the Berkey PF-2 filter. Read more about this issue in the posts about drinking water, contaminants and filters here.
Secondary [indirect] Sources
I define secondary sources as items for which aluminum was employed in the manufacturing process, but for which aluminum does not remain in the final product. Although the use of aluminum during manufacturing may not directly harm us through the use of the product, it harms all of us as the aluminum is eventually dumped into the environment once it has been ‘spent,’ or as it accidentally escapes the manufacturing process or facility and enters the environment. Remember, the environment is just a word to describe the water we drink, and the air we breathe.
- Cars and other vehicles – aluminum is commonly used in alloys to make the vehicle frames, but I’d have to read more about this. Cars are not my area of expertise 🙂
- Electronic devices (phone, computer, etc).
- Household items such as lamps, rain gutters, etc.
- Mason jar lids. These lids are most commonly made out of aluminum. In the case of mason jars, the inside of the aluminum lid is coated with BPA-filled substances – yes BPA! Now, manufacturers are making the lids coated with a non-BPA material, which you can be sure is just as biologically harmful as the BPA.
- Mirrors – metallic coating on the back. Aluminum is the most commonly used metallic coating used to make mirrors (scientific grade mirrors are sometimes coated with alternative dialectric coatings like silicon oxides and silicon nitrides – sometimes they also use silver and gold coating to reflect light of a particular color or light more or less well, but the common mirror has aluminum coating).
- Pots and pans – carbon steel.
- sandblasting and/or polishing process – almost every company uses aluminum to sand blast the surfaces of the pans. Blu Skillet Ironware is the only company I know which does not use aluminum – they use non toxic materials such as quartz sand and other alternatives that are not toxic.
- Blu Skillet Ironware, NO aluminum used! verified 3/28/18
- Blanc Creatives, yes aluminum used in sandblasting, verified 2/15/18
- Matfer Bourgeout – pending verification
- De Buyer – pending verification
- SolidTeknics – pending verification (update 03/2018: they won’t release any manufacturing information until after their patents are completed).
- Pots and pans – cast iron
- sandblasting and/or polishing process – almost every company uses aluminum to sand blast the surfaces of the pans.
- as the core of the pot or pan – some companies such as Staub make cast iron pots that are actually not 100% cast iron. Rather, they consist of an aluminum core which is then covered with cast iron. Most pots and pans contain aluminum or copper cores to better conduct heat, but is it worth it? My 100% cast iron pots and pans work just fine…. This is placed in the secondary category; however, if one were to wear through the cast iron finish, one would ingest and be directly harmed by the aluminum.
- Pots and pans – glazed ceramic. The Dr. Mercola-approved Xtrema ceramic cookware is used by many health-conscious people because it is believed these pots and pans don’t leach any materials into the food, but I haven’t seen testing proving that this is the case. Although the substance and glaze is considered ‘inert’, having been fired at incredibly high temperatures, the enamel/glaze? they use contains aluminum (aluminate), bentonite clay, nitrates, potash and agile.
- Pots and pans – stainless steel pots and pans with aluminum cores
- Rocket tiles – aluminum is used to make the heat-resistant tiles which prevents space shuttles from burning up upon its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. I’m not sure if they’re still using these aluminum tiles.
- Solar stoves – another amazing cookware option. There are several types, but my favorites are manufactured and sold by GoSun. Their innovative parabolic reflectors are made of aluminum, as is the extrusion of the stove’s thermal battery. These components don’t touch the food, nor are they within the cooking chamber, however, they are still secondary sources of aluminum.
- Textiles (mordants) – many dyes are ‘set’ using mordants, such as alum. But do we need mordants and dyes!?!?!? After seeing the beautiful colors of this naturally grown cotton fiber, which darkens every time you wash it, I’m really asking the question! Hemp and other bast fiber fabrics also have beautiful browns, beiges, and greenish hues at times.
- Mining & processing of aluminum. This film created by Bert Ehgartner, called the Age of Aluminum, is a fascinating dive into the mining and processing of aluminum ores. I almost cried at minute 40:00 when the film shows millions and millions of tons of hazardous waste (industry term: “red clay” – alert it is NOT clay at all!) dumped onto who knows how many hundreds of thousands of acres. The company owner says that his facility is capable of producing 6 million of tons of aluminum per year, so you can do the rudimentary math to imagine how many tons of hazardous ‘red clay’ is produced and added to the pile, each year. The clay is let out of the back of dump trucks, and it slides/oozes out, plop-by-plop – into the ‘pit’ – looking strikingly similar to giant feces. As you can see, the mining or extraction and processing of fossil fuel, cement, paper, aluminum and steel have fueled greenhouse gases and environmental pollution, but aluminum is a particularly toxic affair.
You might be wondering if the various forms of aluminum are more, or less toxic than another. You will see differing forms listed, such as:
- aluminum oxide
- alumina oxide
- potassium alum (KAI(SO4)2-12H2O)
According to Christopher Exley, all aluminum compounds/salts should be considered sources of biologically-reactive aluminum (AI3+). What discriminates them is the rate at which they ‘dissolve’ to release AI3+. If any manufacturer claims “safety” for their product containing any form of aluminum compounds/salts, they should present the data from the conducted experiments to show (under the working conditions of the product), how much AI3+ is released to the surrounding environment and during what period of time! Well said Christopher Exley!
Aluminum may exist in the Earth’s crust, but that doesn’t make it natural for biological life (this includes humans!) to absorb.
Companies are either ignorant, or they are intentionally sticking their heads in the sand and conveniently not conducting experiments or consulting experts like Christopher Exley, or they are intentionally deceiving the public. You will find very misleading product descriptions, written in an authoritative tone, such as this description found on the Deodorant Stones of America website (they sell the ‘natural’ deodorant ‘salt’ sticks).
“…potassium alum (KAI(SO4)2-12H2O), drawn from bauxite ore. Bauxite ore is formed by the rapid weathering of granite rocks in warm, humid climate and can be purified and converted directly into alum. Unlike aluminum, alum is a salt. If an aluminum-metal compound, such as the highly soluble aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium, is used as an antiperspirant, that compound is readily absorbed.”
Many companies and their leaders and staff are simply unaware of how using aluminum in their manufacturing processes and in their products are killing us/the environment. Aluminum is simply considered so commonplace, as are many other toxic materials, that we accept it as part of the status quo. Consider this response I received from GoSun (the solar stove company) after I shared some information about aluminum mining and processing, which is shown well in this video (skip to minute 40:00 to see the hazardous waste created by the processing of aluminum):
“I am passing your suggestions along to our founder. We wish to leave the smallest imprint possible, while changing human behaviors for the better. Thanks for sharing that [information], I didn’t know about the ore processing issues!