Patients on kidney dialysis and long-term intravenous feeding frequently suffer a painful bone disease apparently caused by aluminum in solutions used in treatment, researchers have found.
Dr. Gordon Klein, chief of pediatric clinical nutrition at the City of Hope in suburban Duarte, said a current study shows aluminum is the possible culprit in a bone disease characterized by a deep, excruciating, arthritic-type sensation.
The pain is produced by bone softening, which causes rickets-like symptoms in children who have been hospitalized and fed intravenously over long periods of time. Similar symptoms are also apparent in patients whose blood is filtered through dialysis machines.
"There have been numerous studies conducted on this type of bone disease by kidney specialists because of the frequency of such disease turning up in dialysis patients," Klein said.
Klein cites dialysis water contaminated with aluminum deposits as a cause of bone disease in people undergoing dialysis.
"Some parts of the country have large amounts of aluminum contained naturally in the water," according to Klein. "We found that the situation can be improved by deionizing the water."
During deionization, electrically charged atoms are removed from water.
In the case of bone disease occurring in people on long-term intravenous feedings, Klein points to certain protein sources in solution--particularly casein hydrolysate--as containing high levels of aluminum deposits.
Since aluminum comprises 8% of the Earth's crust, almost everyone is exposed to it daily and absorbs the metal into the body by breathing it in as a dust or ingesting it with food, Klein said.
Normally, the lungs and gastrointestinal tract serve as barriers that block most or all aluminum. But in the case of patients on dialysis or intravenous feedings, the body's natural defenses against the metal are circumvented.
There is no known biological requirement for aluminum and the metal has not been found to be carcinogenic even after it has deeply invaded bones, Klein said.
Aluminum deposits in the brain, however, have been linked with Alzheimer's disease, which causes mental degeneration.