Learn what you need to know about aluminum.
Also known as: aluminum
What is aluminum?
Aluminum is a metal that is naturally found in the environment. It is the most common metal in the earth’s crust.
Where is aluminum found?
Aluminum metal is used in many consumer products including beverage cans, pots and pans, siding and roofing, and foil. Aluminum can be mixed with other metals to form alloys. These alloys are used in water treatment and in consumer products such as antacids, food additives, cosmetics, and antiperspirants.
People can be exposed to low levels of aluminum from air, dust, soil, food, and water. As such, all people have small amounts of aluminum in their bodies. Drinking water can contain aluminum if it comes from groundwater aquifers with aluminum metals or if alum (an aluminum alloy) is used to treat the water.
What regulations and guidelines are available to protect people from aluminum?
There is no standard for the amount of aluminum allowed in the air of homes and there are no federal or state drinking water standards for aluminum that protect public health.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) of 0.05–0.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for aluminum in drinking water. This level is set to protect from aluminum changing the color of the water.
Wisconsin has a groundwater enforcement standard of 200 microgram per liter (µg/L) for aluminum. The Department of Health Services reviewed this standard in 2019 as part of the tenth cycle of groundwater standards. DHS recommends no change to the current standard as available information indicate the current standard is protective of human health. DHS recommends that people take action to reduce exposure when the aluminum level in drinking water are equal to or greater than 200 µg/L.
Everyone's reaction is different
A person's reaction to chemicals depends on several things, including individual health, heredity, previous exposure to chemicals (including medicines), and personal habits such as smoking or drinking. It’s also important to consider the length of exposure to the chemical, the amount of chemical exposure, and whether the chemical was inhaled, touched, or eaten.
While most people do not experience health effects from exposure to aluminum, some groups are at higher risk for aluminum toxicity.
These groups include people with impaired kidney function and babies.
Studies with research animals have shown that exposure to high levels of aluminum over a long period of time can affect testosterone levels, body weight, memory, and sperm.
Aluminum can be measured in blood, bones, feces, or urine. Urine and blood aluminum measurements can tell you whether you have been exposed to larger-than-normal amounts of aluminum. Measuring bone aluminum can also indicate exposure to high levels, but this requires a bone biopsy.
Seek medical advice if you have any symptoms that you think may be related to chemical exposure.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has more information on exposure routes and health effects of aluminum.
Questions? Can't find what you're looking for? Contact us!