Aluminum exposure and metabolism

Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 1997;34(5):439-74. doi: 10.3109/10408369709006422.


Aluminum (Al) is a nonessential, toxic metal to which humans are frequently exposed. Oral exposure to aluminum occurs through ingestion of aluminum-containing pharmaceuticals and to a lesser extent foods and water. Parenteral exposure to aluminum can occur via contaminated total parenteral nutrition (TPN), intravenous (i.v.) solutions, or contaminated dialysates. Inhalation exposure may be important in some occupational settings. The gut is the most effective organ in preventing tissue aluminum accumulation after oral exposure. Typically gastrointestinal absorption of aluminum from diets is < 1%. Although the mechanisms of aluminum absorption have not been elucidated, both passive and active transcellular processes and paracellular transport are believed to occur. Aluminum and calcium may share some absorptive pathways. Aluminum absorption is also affected by the speciation of aluminum and a variety of other substances, including citrate, in the gut milieu. Not all absorbed or parenterally delivered aluminum is excreted in urine. Low glomerular filtration of aluminum reflects that most aluminum in plasma is nonfiltrable because of complexation to proteins, predominantly transferrin. The importance of biliary secretion of aluminum is debatable and the mechanism(s) is poorly understood and appears to be saturable by fairly low oral doses of aluminum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Aluminum / pharmacokinetics*
  • Aluminum / poisoning
  • Aluminum / urine
  • Bile / metabolism
  • Digestive System / metabolism
  • Drug Contamination
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Respiratory System / metabolism
  • Skin / metabolism


  • Aluminum