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No, aluminium in vaccines or foil is not bad for your health

IN SHORT: Social media posts claim that aluminium in vaccines has “devastating effects on the human body” and that using tinfoil made from aluminium causes Alzheimer's disease. But these claims are false.

“Aluminium is now known to be neurotoxic and the root cause of many serious illnesses,” begins an alarming message doing the rounds on Facebook in South Africa.

Aluminium is a silvery white metal that is used in a wide range of products, including cans, foil, utensils and aeroplane parts. This is because the metal is very malleable. Aluminium is very common and small amounts are present in everyday life, including in air, food and water.

“What the pharmaceutical companies don't make public is that the use of aluminium as a vaccine adjuvant was never rigorously tested before going on the market,” the post continues.

The same claim has been made elsewhere on Facebook. Other posts claim that aluminium foil, a thin rolled sheet of alloyed aluminium, can cause Alzheimer’s disease. This foil is often used to cover food when cooking or after to keep it fresh or warm. It’s widely known as tinfoil, though it is no longer made from tin. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that causes a loss of memory and thinking skills, eventually leading to the inability to carry out simple tasks. Alzheimer’s is usually diagnosed in people in their 60s, but in rare cases it can affect those as young as 30. 

The posts also say: “Experts have warned that using this metal often could result in loss of coordination, memory, balance and overall mental decline. You should be aware that all of these effects are long-lasting.”

The same claim has also been made here, here and here.

So are there aluminium adjuvants in vaccines that have "devastating effects on the human body"? And does using tinfoil cause Alzheimer's disease? We checked.

AluminiumClaims_False

Neurotoxins and neurotoxic effects

Neurotoxins are substances that change the structures or functions of the body's nervous system, which consists of the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

There are many chemicals that are known to have neurotoxic effects. They include both natural and man-made chemical compounds, such as snake venom, which is natural, and ethyl alcohol, which is man-made. 

Neurotoxins can be inhaled, ingested, absorbed through the skin, or injected. Depending on the severity of ingestion, neurotoxicity can cause temporary side effects, such as slurred speech, or irreversible effects, such as cognitive damage.

Neurotoxicity occurs when exposure to a substance interferes with the otherwise normal activity of the nervous system.

Aluminium is considered neurotoxic, but only in large quantities and mainly when taken orally

The US agency for toxic substances says that only very small amounts of aluminium – found in air, food, or things we come into contact with – enter our bloodstream.

“Exposure to aluminium is usually not harmful, but exposure to high levels can affect your health,” the agency adds. For example, workers in a factory who breathe in large amounts of aluminium dust may suffer from lung issues. 

But, are aluminium adjuvants in vaccines and aluminium foil considered to be neurotoxic, causing “devastating effects on the human body” and Alzheimer's  disease

Aluminium in vaccines is low and ‘not readily absorbed by the body’

Some of the posts on Facebook claim that injecting aluminium, via vaccines, has “devastating effects on the human body” because the aluminium adjuvant “does not always stay at the injection site”.

When developing vaccines, manufacturers sometimes add ingredients to boost the immune system’s response to the vaccine, called adjuvants.

Aluminium is used in some vaccines as an adjuvant, which helps the body build “stronger immunity” against the virus or “germ” in the vaccine. 

Vaccines that use aluminium adjuvants include vaccines for anthrax, hepatitis and other diseases.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amount of aluminium used in vaccines is considered safe when administered properly:

Previous scientific research has shown the amount of aluminium exposure in people who follow the recommended vaccine schedule is low and is not readily absorbed by the body.

Africa Check has previously fact-checked the safety of aluminium in vaccines and found that it is not a cause for concern among medical professionals. We have also found that there is no need to worry about the aluminium in vaccines reacting in your body.

Although large amounts of aluminium can have harmful effects in the body, aluminium used as a vaccine adjuvant is generally considered safe. There is no evidence that it has “devastating effects on the human body”.

‘No convincing relationship between aluminium and the development of Alzheimer's disease’

The Facebook posts also claim that tinfoil can cause Alzheimer's disease.

Aluminium as a cause of Alzheimer’s disease is a complex and controversial topic. Some studies claim that high levels of aluminium in long‐term exposure could lead to the disease, while others say there is no evidence that the metal causes the brain disorder.

One study suggests that very high levels of aluminium may cause symptoms of dementia, such as disorientation or memory impairment, but in a brain condition different from Alzheimer's disease.

But “no convincing relationship between aluminium and the development of Alzheimer's disease has been established,” says the UK’s Alzheimer's Society.

No risk from foil when used correctly

So what about small amounts of aluminium in foil then?

Age is the biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The use of aluminium foil is not a risk factor for developing the disease. 

The European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA), which represents the rolled aluminium foil market in Europe, says that when used correctly and according to the manufacturer's instructions, aluminium foil “does not pose a risk to our health”.

However, the association says that highly acidic products or foods with a lot of salt should not be cooked or stored for long periods in aluminium foil:

Acid or salt – for instance from sliced apples, gherkins, feta cheese, or sausagemeat – can liberate aluminium ions from the foil, and these may go over (migrate) into the food.

But information like this is usually provided by the manufacturers on the packaging.

The Singapore Food Agency, a government agency that oversees food safety in the country, also says that there is no health risk to humans when aluminium foil is used for its intended purpose.

The claims made on social media are false. Aluminium adjuvants in vaccines do not have “devastating effects on the human body” and there is no evidence that the correct use of aluminium foil causes Alzheimer's disease.

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