Occupational exposure to aluminum and its biomonitoring in perspective

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2012 Nov;42(10):827-53. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2012.725027. Epub 2012 Sep 27.


Exposure to aluminum at work is widespread, and people are exposed to several species of aluminum, which differ markedly as to the kinetics and toxicity. Especially welding of aluminum is widely applied and continuously expanding. Inhalation of fine particles of sparsely soluble aluminum results in the retention of deposited particles in the lungs. From the lungs, aluminum is released to the blood and distributed to bones and the brain, and excreted to urine. Soluble aluminum compounds are not accumulated in the lungs. Neurotoxicity is the critical effect of exposure to sparsely soluble aluminum compounds. Studies on workers exposed to aluminum welding fumes have revealed disturbances of cognitive processes, memory and concentration, and changes in mood and EEG. Early pulmonary effects have been observed among aluminum powder-production workers using high-resolution computed tomography. The primary objective of aluminum biomonitoring (BM) is to help prevent the formation of aluminum burden in the lungs and thereby to prevent harmful accumulation of aluminum in target organs. BM of aluminum can be effectively used for this purpose in the production/use of aluminum powders, aluminum welding, as well as plasma cutting, grinding, polishing and thermal spraying of aluminum. BM of aluminum may also be similarly useful in the smelting of aluminum and probably in the production of corundum. BM can help identify exposed individuals and roughly quantitate transient exposure but cannot predict health effects in the production/use of soluble aluminum salts. For urinary aluminum (U-Al) we propose an action limit of 3 µmol/L, corrected to a relative density of 1.021, in a sample collected preshift after two days without occupational exposure, and without use of aluminum-containing drugs. This value corresponds roughly to 2.3 µmol/g creatinine. Compliance with this limit is expected to protect the worker against the critical effect of aluminum in exposure to sparsely soluble aluminum dusts, the cognitive function of the central nervous system. For serum aluminum (S-Al), we do not propose an action limit because S-Al is less sensitive as an indicator of aluminum load.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / pharmacokinetics
  • Aluminum / toxicity*
  • Aluminum Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Aluminum Compounds / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / physiopathology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Dementia / etiology
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Drinking Water / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Hematopoiesis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Welding


  • Aluminum Compounds
  • Drinking Water
  • Aluminum