Food for Thought: Why Analyze Aluminum?

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Why Analyze Aluminum?

  1. It’s a non-renewable resource.
  2. It is something you spend your money on.
  3. It may cause health problems.

My motivation in paying attention to something like how much aluminum I consume/use/ingest/etc. is as with most things in the kitchen:  I want to be a good steward of my family’s health and all our resources, environmental and financial included.

What is a non-renewable resource?

Basically, there are some things humans can’t make (Gasp!) and that aren’t replenished naturally by the earth.  There is a finite amount of aluminum on the planet, graciously provided to us by God, and when we use it all up, that’s it. End of story. No more aluminum. That’s why it bugs me so much when people use it prolifically and toss it in the trash. There’s a lack of knowledge there.

Aluminum is also one of the most easily recycled materials, one that is not cost-prohibitive. Recycling plastic bags, for example, costs more than making new ones.   Many other items generate a good bit of waste that cannot be remade into another item when they are recycled. When aluminum is recycled, however, almost 100% of the raw material can be made into another aluminum item, and it doesn’t cost more than the production using new aluminum. It’s a win-win situation to recycle your aluminum.

Note:  A reader at the Analyzing Aluminum Foil post says:

My county does not accept aluminum foil in the recycling bins. A recycling educator explained that aluminum foil is made from the refuse (or most impure) aluminum at the bottom of the melting pot – it’s not good enough for cans or any other sturdy aluminum product. So tossing used aluminum into the recycle melting pot would be adding more refuse/impurities. They don’t do it.

My town’s recycling list does list “other foil products” as recyclable, so I guess I’ll keep recycling my aluminum foil until I learn otherwise.

Save Money by Analyzing Aluminum

Since you have to purchase aluminum (foil, for example), it’s worth your time to at least reuse it to save money, especially since you’re saving the earth at the same time. See this Monday Mission for lots of tip to reduce, reuse and recycle aluminum foil and how to bake potatoes without aluminum foil.


What health problems are linked to aluminum?

Alzheimer’s Disease is the major player in this list. There is, of course, conflicting research, but most sources at least acknowledge the possibility that aluminum exposure could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. If Alzheimer’s runs in your family, you may want to take more care to avoid aluminum, especially when a change is an easy one.

I always figure if it doesn’t take much time, energy, or funding, I should default to “playing it safe” when it comes to the chance of a major disease. Using less aluminum foil, covering my cookie sheets, switching out my baking powder and deodorant are all fairly simple steps, so I choose to avoid aluminum in these arenas. I can’t avoid it everywhere, but I accept the Baby Steps!

Other diseases linked to aluminum:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Bone damage/disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stomach & Intestinal Ulcers
  • Gastrointestinal Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Skin Problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mental Retardation in Infants
  • Learning Disorders in Children
  • Liver Disease
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Colicky Pain
  • Lack of Energy
  • WiseGeek says there are few if any proven risks…always something contradictory!

Where do we find aluminum?

Here’s the list of places I’ve been paying attention to over the past year:

  • Foil and disposable pans
  • Cooking pots and baking sheets
  • Antiperspirant
  • Baking powder
  • Vaccines

I’m surprised to find out that treated city water is one of our greatest sources of aluminum. That just makes my list of “Things I Need to Avoid in my Water” one item longer. Filtering our tap water is one thing I really need to figure out, for the sake of chlorine, fluoride, and now aluminum. When I do, I’llalways some be sure to share the info with you.

PLUS this incredibly daunting list that I’m still digesting myself, thanks to Emily, a reader who participated in Analyzing Aluminum in August, the Introduction.

  • soda cans
  • foil wrappers around chocolate bars
  • baking powder (conventional)
  • storebought crackers/quick breads/cookies/brownies, etc. (b/c they use the baking powder)
  • all sorts of frozen/refrigerated doughs
  • processed cheese
  • pre-grated cheeses, sometimes
  • aluminum water bottles
  • aluminum bottle tops (like twist caps)
  • antacids
  • antidiarrheal drugs
  • buffered aspirin
  • aluminum baby formula cans
  • conventional salt (as an anticaking agent)
  • antiperspirants
  • douches
  • styptic pencils
  • eyeshadows/cosmetics
  • sunscreens
  • municipal water (treated with aluminum sulfate)
  • whitening toothpaste (aluminum oxide)
  • foil blister packs for medicines
  • foil lips on juice boxes/single serve milks
  • construction items used in and around the house like the gutters and flashing and eves
  • siding
  • some paints
  • lots of tools
  • umbrellas
  • lots of metal decorations (like metal photo frames or hanging mobiles)
  • self-rising flour (due to baking powder)
  • Aluminum silicate found in Kaopectate
  • Animal feed
  • Automotive parts
  • Automotive exhaust
  • Beer
  • Ceramics
  • Cigarette filters
  • Dental amalgams
  • Insulated wiring
  • Nasal spray
  • Medical compounds
  • Pesticides
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Vanilla powder

It’s estimated that people ingest 7-9 mg of aluminum each day in their food. Most city water has less than 1 g/L, and pots and pans aren’t going to leach very much aluminum. It’s hard to say how much aluminum one might ingest via their skin when it comes to antiperspirant, and vaccines only have about 0.85 mg/dose (although that goes right into the bloodstream). Possibly the scariest products include buffered aspirin at 10-20 mg per tablet and antacids, 100-200 mg per tablet. That seems like a major amount, and I don’t care if the info says we don’t take much of that into the bloodsteam. If I don’t direly need an antacid, I’m not going to take one, that’s for sure.

During Analyzing Aluminum in August, we’ll tackle the issues of:

This source says, “You cannot avoid exposure to aluminum because it is so common and widespread in the environment.”  Hmph. Wanna bet? Okay, you probably can’t avoid it completely, but I’m going to do my best to reduce my exposure. Join me! I’m going to do what I can to help you take Baby Steps and accept doing better than yesterday. When you get overwhelmed by all the hazards in the world, just Trust in the Promise of your Meal Blessing and take care of the bodies God gave you. Remember: Sickness is not a guarantee no matter how bad your choices or your environment are, but neither is health. Prioritize.

Sources:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Be sure to catch all the Analyzing Aluminum in August posts!

You might also appreciate Mind the Microwave in May:

I’m linking in to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays.

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7 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    Thank you so much for doing this! I’ve been coming to your website for awhile and learning so much each visit.

    We have a lot of Calphalon cookware thanks to my dh who loves to cook. I did toss a nonstick pan and I need to do that with another. I think I may ask my mil to skip the clothes and toys this Christmas and give us gc’s to get some new cookware and glass storage containers.

    I found some parchment paper at Walmart yesterday and picked up two boxes for our cookie baking. Reynolds recycled aluminum foil was right next to the parchment paper; I just need to use up what I have. Though, I should read your post on avoiding using aluminum foil!

  2. says

    Ah, yes. I can’t stand wasting foil and try to use reusable containers as much as possible for food. I guess deodorant is the area I’m really torn about. The natural kinds never seem to work. I think in the winter months I’d be more willing to give it a go! Because you’re right about baby steps :-)

  3. Helen says

    You might consider a Berkey when it comes to filtering your water. It is an initial investment, but it requires no electricity to use and the filters last a long time. We’ve had ours about eight months, and have loved it. It’s pretty impressive the amount of stuff it gets out of water:

    • Katie says

      I have looked into those a bit after Tammy’s Recipes recommended them, but I still have more research to do (and more counterspace would be nice, too!). Thanks for the note, though, I’ll definitely keep the Berkey on my “maybe” lisit.

  4. Vicky says

    I am going to mix up some of your homemade baking powder – thanks!

    My mom has been buying aluminum-free baking *soda* for a while, and I was concerned about that as well, but after some [confusing] research, it seems that only baking powder contains aluminum, but baking soda does not. I will have to tell her not to waste her money!

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