Aluminum is a chemical element, found naturally in ores like bauxite (see there), cryolite (NaAlSiO4), corundum (see there), boehmite (?-AlOOH), and seldom alunite (see there). Aluminum is derived from alumina by a reduction process that involves electrolytic decomposition of the alumina into metallic aluminum and gaseous oxygen.



Synonyms/Trade Names:

Cera Hydrate (boehmite, large particles), Durals, Duralsuminum.


Aluminum is a chemical element belonging to the boron group .


Cubic face centered.

Crystallographic Constants:

4.049 4.049 4.049 90.000 90.000 90.000.

Crystal Group:




Optical Properties:




Powder Diagram:

2.34 2.02 1.22 1.43 (4-787).

Natural Sources:

The main producing countries are Australia, France, Greece, Greenland, Guinea, Jamaica and Yugoslavia. The world production was 15.3×106 tons of aluminum pig in 1985.

Medical Importance:

Key Hazards:

Fibrogenic, toxic, asthmatic-like reactions, neurotoxic.

Involved Organs:

Lung, central nervous system, liver, kidneys, skin, bone marrow.


Persons working in mines or factories producing explosives, fireworks, tools used for aircraft and space missiles have a specific risk. The workers inhale aluminum particles smaller than 4 µm during the melting process of aluminum-containing minerals (see also under the heading corundum, mullite). Persons working in aluminum production have an increased risk for lung cancer and bladder cancer. Aluminum is toxic to both the peripheral and central nervous system. Associated diseases are rare; 11 patients with aluminosis have been recognized in Germany since 1984.


mg/m3 mg/m3
Australia 10
Belgium 10
Denmark 10 (dust)
France 10
Germany 6
Great Britain 10 20
Russia 2
Hungary 5
Sweden 10 (dust)
United States: ACGIH 10
United States: NIOSH/OSHA 10 (dust)

Germany BAT: 200 µg/l (urine)


The aluminum or aluminum-silica (bauxite) particles are ingested by the alveolar macrophages and induce a diffuse interstitial lung fibrosis. Inhalation of the flake type, sometimes mixed with stearine or oil is of specific risk for progressive interstitial lung fibrosis. It is still unclear, whether aluminum or the silica particles are the cause. Some studies propose a correlation between the interstitial lung fibrosis and the inhalation of silica particles. The pathway of the asthmatic reaction is not known. The resorption of aluminum by the gastrointestinal tract is weak; aluminum decreases the activity of amylases. Aluminum is stored in the skeleton (40%). The median excretion time ranges from a few hours to several years, depending on the period of exposure. Urinary excretion increases with increasing time of exposure. The size of aluminum particles is associated with its gross appearance and its fibrogenic potency and can be classified as follows (according to Dinman, 1987):

Dust Mean diameter Surface area
µm m2/g
Grindings (nominal) 100-600 0.001-0.05
Atomized (granular)
Coarse 25-30 0.001-0.05
Fine 6-9 0.001-0.05
Coarse (pigments) 20 3
Medium fine
(explosive) 12 5-6
Fine (pyrotechnic) <1 10-12

The fibrogenic potency of some Al-substances is as follows (powder, animal experiments, according to Dinman, 1988):
Substance Fibrogenic potency
Gelatinous boehmite
(γ-HX1010) strong
γ-AlOOH, particles >3 µm) none
γ-Al2O3 moderate
α-Al2O3 weak.

Lung Diseases:

Diffuse interstitial fibrosis, asthma, acute intoxication. The Lung Diseases are synonymous to Shaver‘s disease, aluminosis.

Clinical Presentation:

Symptoms are nonspecific and similar to those seen in silicosis patients; however, the main symptom is dyspnea, especially after long and severe exposure. The disease can be rapidly progressive, and death can occur after 12-18 months. Common complications include pneumothorax and less often chronic asthmatic bronchitis. Asthmatic like reactions have been documented in aluminum smelter (potroom) workers since 1935. A hypersensitivity reaction has also been reported.


Chest-radiographs reveal reticular patterns with nodular components in all parts of the lungs, and emphysematous bullous changes. They may display non-characteristic shadows in corundum exposed persons, predominantly in the upper lobes.

Lung Function:

Restrictive changes, impaired diffusion and hypoxemia are the characteristic findings. Whether there is reduced vital capacity is yet unclear.

Bronchoalveolar Lavage:

The activity of the interstitial fibrosis is associated with the T4/T8 ratio and activated complement measured in the lavage fluid.



Shrunken lungs with multiple subpleural emphysematous bullae, multiple fibrotic bundles oriented along the interlobar septae, and fibrous scars in the central parts of the lungs are the characteristic findings. The lungs display a grayish-red color.


Thick fibrotic acellular bundles with some scattered mononuclear inflammatory infiltrates can be noted in the peripheral lung zones. Agglutinations of dust-laden macrophages in the distant air spaces and scattered multinucleated giant cells surround the crystal clests. Lumens of small arteries are obliterated by organized thrombotic lesions. Special stains include collagen stains, Prussian blue, and Aurine stain for Aluminum.


The prognosis is poor due to progressive interstitial fibrosis. The asthma may resolve if exposure is terminated.

Additional Diseases:


A relation between Alzheimer’s disease and the aluminum content of the brain has been proposed by some investigators. Encephalopathia has been noted in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Only one case of a heavily aluminum-exposed welder suffering from encephalopathia without chronic renal failure has been published.


Aluminum related liver dysfunction has been described in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Skeleton: Patients undergoing hemodialysis may develop osteomalacia.


In some dialysis patients chronic intoxication with alumina has been noted.


Duralsuminum with an aluminum content >95% can induce severe, poorly healing skin lesions. Hemoblastosis: An increased risk for leukemias has been noted in potroom workers.



A correlation between aluminum exposure and the incidence of tuberculosis has not been reported.

McIntyre Powder:

Finely ground aluminum and aluminum-oxide used as a prophylactic agent against silicotic lung disease.


It is a pure (without stearine binder) aluminum powder, which is used in fire extinguishers. The production of pyropowder can be associated with high concentrations of aluminum dust in the air.


search Pubmed for Aluminum

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