Recent testing of the water in and around the city of Mount Shasta by a group of local citizens claims to have found levels of aluminum that are a danger to health.
Independent testing of several area water sources and the city’s water supply have found either no aluminum or trace amounts.
In addition, whether aluminum is a health hazard is an ongoing debate with government and other sources saying it poses no hazard except in very large amounts and only under certain conditions.
The Environmental Protection Agency does not classify aluminum under its legally enforceable National Primary Drinking Water Regulations that sets amounts not to be exceeded for health reasons. Considered a “nuisance chemical,” aluminum is listed under the National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations that sets non-mandatory water quality standards for “taste, color and odor.”
EPA Secondary Drinking Water Regulations for aluminum are 0.20 - .05 milligrams per liter for “aesthetic considerations.” The EPA?says these Secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels are not “based on levels that will affect humans or animals. It is based on taste, smell, or color.”
The State of California sets the Maximum Contaminant Level of 1.0 milligram per liter for drinking water. A milligram per liter is the equivalent to 1 part per million.
Water samples were collected April 20 and testing was done by Basic Labs in Redding using method EPA60108 with containers provided by the lab to ensure no contamination. The results are as follows:
•?Ream Ave. and W.A. Barr Road pond - Not Detected;
•?Shasta Ranch Road pond - 0.097 milligrams per liter;
•?Sisson Meadows pond - 0.085 milligrams per liter;
•?City Park headwaters - Not detected;
Mount Shasta city public works director Rod Bryan also tested city water supply sites April 23 and reported that aluminum was “not detected” at the city water supply sources Well 1, Well 2 and Cold Springs by Basic Labs.
The California Regional Water Quality Control Board also conducted tests on May 4 and 7 that were evaluated by Basic Labs. The results are as follows:
•?Ash Creek near McCloud - 0.010 milligrams per liter;
•?Mount Shasta area - 0.019 milligrams per liter;
•?Castle Lake - 0.022 milligrams per liter.
Where aluminum was detected, the amounts were far below the EPA?SDWR or the State of California MCL.
Redding California Regional Water Quality Control Board Associate Engineering Geologist Guy Chetelat, who reported the current RWQCB tests, said naturally occurring amounts of aluminum can vary widely and that even so-called higher levels pose no danger.
“Natural conditions for aluminum are variable because it is so common in the soil. It can be quite high without being detrimental to life. The amount can fluctuate tremendously depending on conditions, sediment for example,” Chetelat said. “Aluminum is ubiquitous in the environment. It’s toxic at a certain level, but it’s not toxic like heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Aluminum does not accumulate like lead or mercury.”
Page 2 of 3 - As for spikes in aluminum levels, Chetelat pointed to a NASA?study of sand storms in the Gobi and Sahara deserts that stated aluminum and other elements from the storms drift to the United States.
“These dust clouds can transport swiftly across the Pacific reaching North America within a few days,” says a National Aeronautics and Space Administration 2001 report.
Chetelat said additional aluminum sources can come from coal fired power plants and forest fires.
Chetelat says a complete scientific review of aluminum content in a given area would require intensive testing over a wide range of time.
“A full test for aluminum would have to be designed by atmospheric scientists. You would need a large data set, more than just a handful of samples, more than just a few samples to fully characterize the natural conditions,” Chetelat said. “Windblown materials can make aluminum amounts fluctuate over a wide range including the effect of rainfall or sandstorms. Snowpack sitting on the ground would accumulate airborne sediment and dust, increasing it’s content.”
Chetelat says the current testing data does not constitute a danger.
“I really don’t think so. It’s not falling in problematic amounts,” Chetelat said. “It’s so common in our soil. I don’t see any red flags at all. That’s not to say earlier higher tests were wrong, but there may be other factors.”
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Aluminum is a very abundant and widely distributed element and will be found in most rocks, soils, waters, air, and foods.”
“Aluminum is the most abundant metal on the planet and the third most abundant element, after oxygen and silicon, in the earth's crust,” the ATSDR says. “You will always have some exposure to low levels of aluminum from eating food, drinking water, and breathing air.”
The Food and Drug Administration has determined that aluminum used as food additives and medicinals such as antacids are “generally safe.” The FDA classifies aluminum as a “Generally Recognized as Safe.”
Among the health hazards cited by aluminum’s detractors are the risks of cancer from aluminum in water, antiperspirants, deodorants, cookware, antacids, cosmetics and foods. Claims have also been made that aluminum contributes to Alzheimer's disease.
The World Health Organization says scientific studies do not support these claims.
“There is little indication that aluminum is acutely toxic despite its widespread occurrence in foods, drinking water, and many antacid preparations,” WHO?says.
The Alzheimer's Society says, “The overwhelming medical and scientific opinion is that the findings outlined above do not convincingly demonstrate a causal relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease, and that no useful medical or public health recommendations can be made, at least at present.”
Page 3 of 3 - The ATSDR says, “The available data do not indicate that aluminum is a potential carcinogen.”
“It has not been shown to be carcinogenic in epidemiological studies in humans, nor in animal studies using inhalation, oral, and other exposure routes,” says an ATSDR report.
Claims that high levels of aluminum in kidney dialysis have caused problems under certain circumstances have been supported by several studies.
The ATSDR states the following aluminum exposure cautions:
“Occupational exposures to aluminum occur during the mining and processing of aluminum ore into metal, recovery of scrap metal, production and use of aluminum compounds and products containing these compounds, and in aluminum welding. Individuals living in the vicinity of industrial emission sources and hazardous waste sites; individuals with chronic kidney failure requiring long-term dialysis or treatment with phosphate binders; patients requiring intravenous fluids; infants, especially premature infants fed soy-based formula containing high levels of aluminum; and individuals consuming large quantities of antacids, anti-ulcerative medications, antidiarrheal medications may also be exposed to high levels of aluminum.”
For more information on the possible dangers of exposure to extremely high levels of aluminum such as workplace inhalation, visit the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration website at www.osha.gov.
Neither the EPA, OSHA or ATSDR set or enforce daily aluminum intake requirements under normal conditions.
Health Canada, Canada’s equivalent of the EPA, however, says that high amounts of aluminum can be tolerated.
“On acute exposure, aluminum is of low toxicity. In humans, oral doses up to 7,200 milligrams per day are routinely tolerated without any signs of harmful short-term effects,” Health Canada states.
There are those that claim large amounts of aluminum are being released in the air from jet aircraft chemtrails as part of a government plot to combat global warming. For more pro-chemtrail information, visit the website at www.lightwatcher.com/chemtrails/hos.html.
A website claiming the chemtrail conspiracy is a hoax can be found at www.nmsr.org/chemtrls.htm.
•?ATSDR aluminum profile at www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp22.html;
•?Health Canada aluminum report at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/water-eau/aluminum/aluminum-aluminum-eng.php#a1;
•?NASA sand storm report at http://atmospheres.gsfc.nasa.gov/reportsdocs/pdf/annualreports/Lab2001/lab2001_section6pt2.pdf;
•?Alzheimer's Society aluminum report at http://alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=99;
•?World Health Organization aluminum report at www.who.int/entity/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/aluminiumsum.pdf;
•?Environmental Protection Agency Secondary Drinking Water Regulations at www.epa.gov/safewater/consumer/2ndstandards.html.