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Originally published January 20 2014

Acute exposure to aluminum dust impairs lung function, causes inflammation

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) A 2010 peer-reviewed study has found that sudden exposure to aluminum dust can have long-term detrimental health effects, especially when it comes to lung capacity and function.

According to Brazilian researchers who introduced concentrations of aluminum dust into the respiratory systems of mice, 24 hours after exposure a high number of them experienced reduced lung capacity due to inflammation.

"The composition analysis of the particulate matter showed high concentrations of aluminum," said a summary of the study, conducted by researchers at the Laboratory of Respiration Physiology, Carlos Chagas Filho Institute of Biophysics, at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. "For the first time it was demonstrated in an experimental model that an acute exposure to dust collected in an aluminum producing facility impaired lung mechanics that could be associated with inflammation."

Researchers conducted the study after observing lung capacity changes in workers at aluminum refineries.

A growing body of evidence

The Brazilian study was not the first to detect lung capacity changes due to inhalation of aluminum dust. An earlier 2000 study reported similar findings.

In that study, the details of which were published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers examined a 40-year-old worker who had worked as an aluminum stamper in a plant that produced aluminum powder.

Researchers said the worker had been exposed to high levels of aluminum dust during his tenure at the plant.

"The investigation included the collection of general data on health and details on occupational history, immunological tests, a physical examination, lung function analysis, biological monitoring of Al [aluminum] in plasma and urine, chest X-rays and HRCT [high-resolution computed tomography]," said a study summary.

The study's scientific results:

For many years the man has suffered from an exercise-induced shortness of breath. Lung function analysis revealed a reduction of the vital capacity to 57.5% of the predicted value. The Al concentration in plasma was 41.0 micrograms/l (upper reference value 10 micrograms/l) and in urine 407.4 micrograms/l upper reference value 15 micrograms/l, biological tolerance (BAT) value 200 micrograms/l[ [sic] at the time of diagnosis. Chest X-ray showed unspecific changes. HRCT findings were characterised by small, centrilobular, nodular opacities and slightly thickened interlobular septae. Exposure to other fibrotic agents could be excluded.

Researchers concluded that using HRCT was more sensitive than standard chest X-rays for the detection of early-stage aluminum-dust-induced lung disease. While inconclusive, there was enough evidence to suggest that further study of the phenomenon was warranted.

Results 50 years in the making

A half-century ago, researchers suspected that pulmonary fibrosis and even encephalopathy were associated with the inhalation of aluminum dust. A 1962 study examined the "clinical, radiographic, pathological, and environmental features of a case of extensive aluminium fibrosis of the lungs are reported in a man of 49 years of age who had worked for 13 1/2 years in the ball-mill room of an aluminium powder factory," the abstract noted.

The worker had died from "terminal broncho-pneumonia following rapidly progressive encephalopathy, associated with epileptiform attacks," the summary said, noting that an X-ray examination of the chest found "only slight abnormalities."

"Radiographic examination of the chests of 53 other workers in the same factory, and clinical examination with lung function tests of 23 of them revealed no other definite cases of aluminum fibrosis of the lung, nor any other cases with neurological signs and symptoms," the summary said.

However, researchers also made estimations of the aluminum contents of the body tissues such as the lungs, brain, liver and bone, which were subsequently recorded. "When compared with normal values, it was found that the lungs and brain contained about 20 times and the liver 122 times more than normal," said the study summary.


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