The purpose of this study was to examine whether oral exposure to aluminum (Al) can affect the human immune system. Eighteen healthy volunteers (mean age 42, 28-57 yr) were divided into a test group (9 females, 4 males) and a referent group (3 females, 2 males). Over 6 weeks, the test subjects ingested 10 ml of antacid (aluminum hydroxide, 59 mg Al/ml) three times daily. Aluminum was analyzed in urine before and during the exposure period (ICP-MS). Blood samples were used for analysis of lymphocyte subpopulations, mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation and in vitro production and circulating plasma concentrations of immunoglobulin (Ig) A, IgG, IgM, interleukin (IL) -2 and IL-4. Urinary Al concentration in the test subjects was approximately 10- to 20-fold higher than in the referent group during exposure. This indicates that ingestion of an Al-containing antacid is associated with an Al absorption far above that originating from food and drinking water. In both referents and test subjects the lymphocyte subpopulations, lymphocyte proliferation and the in vitro Ig and IL production showed similar, time-dependent changes before as well as during the exposure period. No major differences were seen between the referent and test groups regarding the immune parameters, except for a slightly smaller CD8+CD45R0+ population (primed cytotoxic T-cells), in the exposed individuals as compared to the referents. The results also show that subjects on antacid therapy may constitute a suitable population for studying biological effects of high-dose oral exposure to Al.