Water content of aluminum, dialysis dementia, and osteomalacia

Environ Health Perspect. 1985 Nov;63:141-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8563141.


In the presence of normal renal function, a high concentration of aluminum in drinking water has been implicated as a factor in the etiology of a neurological syndrome in one specific geographical area. The role of aluminum as a toxic agent in other neurological disorders, where renal function is normal, is controversial. Aluminum is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and is normally excreted by the kidneys in the urine. In patients with chronic renal failure, aluminum appears to be of proven toxicological importance. In these patients the accumulation of aluminum in tissues causes an encephalopathy (dialysis encephalopathy or dialysis dementia), a specific form of metabolic bone disease (osteomalacic dialysis osteodystrophy), and an anemia and also plays an etiological role in some of the other complications associated with end-stage chronic renal disease. A failure in the normal renal excretory mechanism accounts for the tissue accumulation in chronic renal failure. The majority of chronic renal failure patients who develop aluminum toxicity are on long-term treatment with either hemo- or peritoneal dialysis; some patients develop toxicity who are only on treatment with aluminum-containing phosphate-binding agents. Aluminum in the dialysate appears to be the major source of the metal in chronic renal failure patients who develop aluminum toxicity. The aluminum content of the dialysate depends primarily on the content of the water with which it is prepared; there may be some contribution from the chemicals used in the concentrate which is added to the water. Some domestic tap-water supplies contain aluminum in high concentration, either naturally or because aluminum has been added as a flocculant in the purification process.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / blood
  • Aluminum / metabolism
  • Aluminum / toxicity*
  • Dementia / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Osteomalacia / chemically induced
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Supply


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Aluminum