Report No FR/UM0001



MAY 1995


The possibility that aluminium derived from drinking waters could be involved in the initiation or development of Alzheimer's disease, a common neuro-degenerative disorder in the elderly, prompted various research studies in recent years. Water industry funding via FWR in the period 1989-93 was used by WRc to examine the speciation and bioavailability of aluminium in raw and treated waters, and to review new information on the toxicology of aluminium. WRc also collaborated with the Medical Research Council on a case-control study attempting to relate the risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease and the history of exposure to aluminium in drinking water. This work was reported in March 1993 (FR 0376).

The conclusions of the report were that:

It was also stated that 'Research currently being conducted by UMIST should provide valuable information on the effects, if any, that aluminium has on the formation of the characteristic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles associated with Alzheimer's syndrome'.

Accordingly the Foundation has continued to support the research at UMIST, which is also funded by various medical charities, during 1994-95 as part of FWR's innovative programme funded from investment income. The work is directly concerned with the mechanisms by which aluminium, regardless of its origin, becomes associated with brain cells. Attention is also being given to agents which may retard the rate of uptake by cellular material, or even remove deposited aluminium from brain plaques.

The report summarises the current findings and indicates how the work will be developed in 1995-96. Progress has been made in understanding how aluminium behaves in the cell culture system used at UMIST.

This work and other related studies at UMIST are tending to support the view that several factors are involved in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease, including one or more environmental agents.

Thus aluminium still cannot be excluded as a possible contributory factor. Neither, however, should it be regarded as a primary cause of the disorder.

Copies of the report are available from FWR, price 5.00, less 20% to FWR Members.