SYDNEY, March 28 -- Australian researchers have discovered what they say is the strongest link so far between Alzheimer's disease and the world's most widely used water-filtering chemical, alum, they said Tuesday. A research team led by Judie Walton of the Australian Institute for Biomedical Research has shown that traces of dissolved aluminum in alum- treated drinking water may enter the brain -- from as little as a single glass of water, they said.
Alum is the common name for aluminum sulfate, which is dissolved and used to bind fine sediments for removal. Walton said that aluminum was a known nerve poison, and dissolved aluminum was the most toxic and 'bio-available' form of the metal and therefore the most potentially damaging to humans. Walton, who is the president of the International Federation of Cell Biology, said there was more evidence that aluminum is involved in Alzheimer's disease than any other single factor. She has called for a global review of the use of alum, and said the research suggested that the World Health Organization's standards for maximum aluminum concentrations in drinking water were probably 100 times too high. 'The amount of aluminium that goes into the brain appears to depend on the individual's genetic predisposition, whether aluminium is added to the water supply, and what other foods, such as orange juice, wine, coffee and prepared foods they eat,' she said. She said the research, on laboratory rats, suggested that small amounts of aluminum taken up by the human brain could accumulate over a lifetime to 'substantial levels' and contribute to brain-cell death and memory loss.