Aluminum and Alzheimers Disease

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You might have heard that exposure to aluminum can cause Alzheimer's disease. Scientists have been studying this issue for many years, ever since finding that aluminum accumulates in the abnormal brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease. The evidence has been difficult to sort out, and many studies have offered contradictory findings.

You can be exposed to aluminum in drinking water, in foods cooked in aluminum pots and pans, and possibly in foods and beverages packaged in aluminum. Some antiperspirants contain aluminum, which can be absorbed through the skin. But such environmental exposures tend to be extremely small. Although scientists continue to study the Alzheimer's-aluminum connection, most experts discount aluminum as a significant risk factor for the disease.

You can reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals by taking these precautions:

• Lead house paint. If you live in a house built in 1978 or earlier, it may contain lead paint. It's unnecessary to remove the paint if it's in good condition. If it's not, don't attempt to remove it yourself, as this can release harmful lead dust into the air. Contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for information on finding an approved contractor to do the work.

• Drinking water. If your water comes from a public water system, obtain a copy of the system's annual water quality report to see if the levels of any toxic chemicals exceed government standards. Keep in mind, however, that when toxic chemicals are present in drinking water, the source is often the pipes in individual homes. You can measure the amount of lead and other chemicals in your tap water by

92 using one of the U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency-approved water-testing kits available in hardware stores and elsewhere. There are also several water filters on the market that can remove lead and other toxic chemicals.

• Art supplies and household chemicals. When using paints and other art materials, make sure you work in a well-ventilated area. Follow the safe use directions on the label of pesticides, solvents, and any other chemicals you use. Wear a protective mask.

• Carbon monoxide. Prevent carbon monoxide exposure by getting a regular inspection of your home heating system and your automobile's exhaust system.

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