Aluminum surrounds us. Aluminum is one of the most common elements found on the earth. But it belongs outside your body, not in it, and even though our bodies do a good job of filtering out the aluminum that does get in there, our kidneys and intestines can only filter out a certain amount before it starts putting stress on those organs.
As you might expect, it’s not so great for infants either. But despite this, manufacturers of infant formula are ignoring what we know about the dangers of aluminum as a study released this week reveals. The study, entitled “There is (still) too much aluminum in infant formulas” measured the aluminum content of 13 major brands of formula and found levels that were way too high. Aluminum is a “metalloestrogen” which means the metal, toxic to humans, actually acts as an hormone in the body. For infants the effects can be neural, as the aluminum can settle in developing brains. Aluminum can also compete with calcium for bone formation leading to problems in adulthood like osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones leading to fractures which has become all too common. While the manufacturers deny adding aluminum to the infant formula, (I mean, who would do such a thing?) the fact remains that it exists. So, how does it get in there?
The theory is that through storing, and the components added during production (specifically calcium and other minerals additives), aluminum finds its way into the product. Aluminum exposure from factory machinery certainly plays a part. Think about what the cow’s milk’-based parts of the formula go through before it ends up in that aluminum can. The level of chemical production, heating, mixing, etc. is mind-blowing. Soy-based formulas seem to contain a bit more aluminum because this metal is present in the soil of soy plants. The soybean seems to attract more aluminum from acidic soils into the plant. The producers can say “we don’t add aluminum” on the packaging and omit aluminum from the nutrition labeling but still there be high levels of this mineral. Pharmaceutical companies are the usual manufacturers of infant formula, (Abott Pharaceutical Labs makes Similac and Mead Johnson, formally of Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticles, makes Enfamil) and as you might expect, after seeing aluminum reports, they went on the defensive. Pfizer, the makers of SMA formula at the time, released a statement that said ” It is important for consumers to know that Pfizer does not add aluminum to its products. Aluminum is naturally occurring in the environment.”
OK….cyanide is naturally occurring, and so is salmonella……what’s your point? The fact remains aluminum is still harmful to humans.
(On a side note, Pfizer recently sold their infant formula division to Neslte, a company with disgusting ethics that wants to “feed the babies of the world”…their way.)
When I called an Enfamil rep to try to get the aluminum content of the Enfamil Premium Infant powder, she didn’t have the info available. She was very sure to tell me though, that they “do not add aluminum to their products, but there is no way to remove it from the formula.” Sounds hauntingly familiar to the Pfizer reps’ quote I cited above. I’m still waiting for that specialist to call me back…..
As you might expect, aluminum is not good for grown-ups either. This metal is not useful in any way to humans. It causes stress and strain on your kidneys, collects and damages your bones, and because your body thinks it’s a hormone, it may increase your risk for certain hormonal cancers like breast and uterine. (Some say aluminum exposure causes Alzheimer’s but the evidence, while still being studied, is thin.)
Aluminum can be a part of your life if you let it be. Here are some places it’s hiding:
- drinking water due to purification process
- Anti-acids such as Maalox and Maalox plus
- cooking pots and pans
- anti-caking agents in cake mixes, baking powder, and any other boxed mixes that are powdered
- anti-perspirants (read the label…they say “If you have kidney disease, consult a doctor before use”)
- aluminum foil
- metal water bottles
There has been over a decade of study on the effects of aluminum in antiperspirants and their effect on the risk of breast cancer. One scientist Dr P.D. Darbre, has been studying the effects of aluminum and other estrogen altering chemicals in our personal care products for most of her working life. Through her studies, she shows that exposure to aluminum and parabens (chemical preservatives found in most personal care products) actually cause cancer cells in the lab to multiply rapidly.
So what can you do?
If you’re of the mindset that “everything causes cancer, so I’m just going to continue living as I have been”, then do nothing.
If you think “there may be a little truth to this, so I’m going to reduce my exposure where I can, then take a look at the following list. Here’s where aluminum may get into your body.
- drinking water due to purification process ..check your local water supply to see how high your aluminum is. Distillation or reverse osmosis-type filers will remove the aluminum from the water…carbon filters do not.
- Anti-acids such as Maalox and Maalox Plus..there’s no need for anti-acid medicine when you are eating healthy and eating the right amounts of food. High animal product intake and foods that are hard to digest… dairy, red meat, processed foods, will cause your stomach to have issues. If you do need something, use plain baking soda which changes the pH of your stomach and allows for emptying and neutralization perfectly. Place 1/2 tsp baking soda in an 8 ounce glass of water. Mix well and drink. Please consult your healthcare professional before taking any medical advice.
- cooking pots and pans…switch to stainless steel or cast iron, which gives you necessary healthy iron and lasts forever. Also makes a great weapon in a pinch.
- anti-caking agents in cake mixes, baking powder, and any other boxed mixes that are powdered…..limit your processed food intake. Why do you need cake mixes when you can just make one from scratch? And when you do make that cake, use aluminum-free baking powder
- anti-perspirants (read the label…they say “If you have kidney disease, consult a doctor before use”)….avoid anti-perspirants and use aluminum-free deodorants. Be careful to read the whole label. “Natural” crystal-type deodorants contain amonuim alum or potassium alum….alum is related to aluminum, but different. While some say the molecule is too big to penetrate the skin, others say it still counts as aluminum exposure. (I can’t get a straight answer from those who manufacture the crystals and would love to speak to a non-biased chemistry professor who can explain it to me. I know a bit about chemistry and I know that just because it has a mineral name in the formula does not mean it has the same properties. Potassium chloride and potassium permanganate are two good examples. The first is found in bananas, the other is highly poisonous and combustable) There are some great deodorants available that meet all the “natural” needs. There are also some great do-it-yourself recipes out there.
- aluminum foil...use parchment paper which works better anyway.
- metal water bottles….always check to make sure yours is BPA-free stainless steel, not aluminum.
If you are planning a child, strongly consider breast feeding to reduce the level of aluminum from formulas. I’m not going to go into the hundreds of reasons why breastfeeding is better, I’m sure you know them by heart.
If it’s not possible to breastfeed, then get the info you need to choose the healthiest formula and use water that is aluminum-free if possible. (70 years ago I would recommend finding a good wet nurse, but I don’t believe that’s an option these days.) “Organic” formulas do not guarantee you aluminum-free formula. You might try to contact the formula companies to see if their aluminum level is available, although you may as well prepare yourself for a proverbial goose chase.
Live healthy. Live happy.
Thanks for reading and I’d love to know your thoughts. Is avoiding aluminum something that you routinely do?
This info is meant to inform, not panic. I cannot be responsible for your reactions. I believe information is valuable because it can lead us to change and lead healthier lives for ourselves and those we love. The more you know, the better equipped you are to make your own choices. Namaste.