BY Ellis Barker J.
ALUMINIUM is a very popular metal for kitchen utensils of every kind. Saucepans, kettles, etc., made of aluminium look attractive, are very light to handle, and are inexpensive. There is the further attraction that they do not chip as do enamel utensils. Aluminium enters in ever increasing quantity into the daily life of the nation. Innumerable tea pots, milk jugs made of aluminium are found everywhere and aluminium is employed by many industries engaged in the making of food products, ices, etc.
Many homoeopaths maintain that in using aluminium there is considerable danger of aluminium poisoning. Their opinion is based partly on the aluminium provings which are found in the great text-books of Homoeopathy and partly founded on clinical experience. I myself have seen a large number of cases in which the use of aluminium cooking utensils has done mischief and even dangerous mischief, and probably much of modern ill-health is due to the use or abuse of aluminium in cooking. Consequently I never allow the employment of aluminium.
Aluminium is produced by an enormous and very wealthy trust, and very naturally the aluminium producers and vendors defend the use of the metal and criticize all other metals employed in competition with aluminium. They are very eloquent about the fact that enamel chips. Probably a few enamel chips in the stomach and bowel are as inocuous as fragments of bone or grains of sand which enter the gastric tract with the food.
The defenders of aluminium have made experiments on animals with aluminium in order to prove that it is harmless. These experiments are quite useless. Animals react differently to human beings, and therefore all animal experiments are more or less unreliable. Rabbits can eat quantities of belladonna with impunity, which would prove deadly to human beings.
Further there are people who can, apparently, employ aluminium cooking utensils with impunity, while others become violently sick suddenly after having a little food or drink prepared in aluminium. Others, again, do not become violently sick with diarrhoea, vomiting, etc., but develop in the course of years rheumatism, arthritis and numerous other maladies which are apt to improve as soon as aluminium is discarded or as soon as homoeopathic antidotes to aluminium are administered.
During November 1935 some interesting letters relating to the aluminium problem have been published by The Times, and I would give a few of these letters criticising the use of the metal.
ALUMINIUM COOKING VESSELS.
To the Editor of “The Times.”.
SIR, – Having raised as far back as 1928 the question of the toxic nature of aluminium cooking vessels, I am grateful to you for devoting space tot his highly important problem in your columns. There could be no more effective way of drawing the attention of the responsible authorities to an evil which, being so far unrecognized, claims innumerable victims among the population at large.
Thousands of pounds are spent annually, unfortunately with discouraging results, on research into diseases of obscure origin. It is claimed by many medical men that some of these diseases are due to aluminium poisoning and can, therefore, be prevented.
As a result of prolonged investigation into the causation of digestive disorders prevalent in this country, frequently associated with pyorrhoea, certain skin diseases, eczema, boils, pruritis, etc., it was found that they could be cured in the majority of cases and their recurrence prevented by discontinuing the use of aluminium utensils and eliminating the poison accumulated in the body over the space of years.
The obvious conclusion was that these utensils contained a highly potent irritant which was set free in the process of cooking, aided by the inevitable use of acids and alkalis, and that it contaminated food and drink.
Moreover, many laboratory experiments conducted by physiologists in various countries, among others France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States, led to the conviction that certain aluminium compounds, on being dissolved in the gastric juice and absorbed into the blood circulation, acted in the same way as lead, copper, mercury and arsenic.
Sensitiveness to the poison certainly varies in different people. The report of the Ministry of Health on the subject acknowledges the fact “That certain people may possess an idiosyncrasy towards aluminium”, and recommends that “the prudent course for such an individual would be to avoid it for the future”.
The danger arising from the use of aluminium vessels for cooking purposes is thus seen to be a very real one, especially if one shares my opinion that very few people are completely insensitive to the metal.
ALUMINIUM AND FOOD.
INFANTS DIGESTIVE FUNCTIONS.
To the Editor of “The Times”.
SIR, – Allow me to thank you on behalf of myself and many of my medical colleagues who are of the same way of thinking as I am, that you have added the weight of The Times to the view that there are two sides of the aluminium question.
It is almost impossible for those who hold views which conflict with the vast commercial interests of the aluminium trade and allied industries to obtain an unbiased and unprejudiced hearing on the above subject. The recent report issued by the Ministry of Health on the subject of the amount of aluminium imparted to foods which are cooked in aluminium saucepans in quite beside the point.
Every one knows that some aluminium is imported under such conditions, but the question to be settled is whether the accumulated effects of any quantity of such a foreign metal as aluminium acting on the organisms perhaps for many years, is, or is not, injurious to human health, and also whether in the case of susceptible persons even small quantities acting for a short time may not also be harmful. This point cannot be settled by laboratory experiments, limited to animals and limited in time. They can only be settled by the massed experience of many practitioners making observations over long periods of time, and on many individuals.
I have myself expressed elsewhere my reasons for believing considerable damage can be done to the delicate digestive functions of infants by the consumption of bone and vegetable broth made in aluminium saucepans, but in accordance with a formula which I have published.
This method entails the addition of vinegar, and exposes the aluminium first to an acid, and finally to an alkaline reaction, thus giving a double opportunity for solution of the metal. I have seen many individual cases of injury to babies from this cause, and in one instance a considerable epidemic which occurred in a residential institution for infants. In these cases there cannot be any question of psychological suggestion.
Hoping that the publicity which you are giving to this subject will induce the medical profession as a whole, and the public also, to take an intelligent interest in this important problem.
Believe me, yours very truly,
40 Harley Street, W.I.
These weighty views, how strong so ever they may be countered by the defenders of aluminium, deserve attention. Those who criticise the use of aluminium and warn against its dangers have no axe to grind. The Editor of The Times was obviously strongly impressed by the danger of the position. On November 23rd The Times published a leading article superscribed “Aluminium Vessels” in which we read:.
The discussion in these column about the use of aluminium vessels in cooking shows that a good deal of anxiety exists about the subject. Opinion, however, is far from unanimous. The weight of opinion inclines to the view that aluminium vessels are harmless. Nor is that view based solely upon individual experience. From time to time efforts have been made to study the question scientifically by means of tests and experiments. These efforts have not resulted in any wholesale condemnation.
So far, therefore, the case against aluminium in cooking remains subjudice. A body of evidence for an against exists, and witnesses for and against can easily be found. There are certainly great numbers of people who suffer, or believe they suffer, no ill-effects of any kind through the use of aluminium vessels in their kitchens. Many others, however, have been less fortunate.
In such circumstances more extensive inquiry seems to be called for. But the nature of the inquiry is a matter of greater difficulty than might appear at first sight. The experience of the medical profession has been that a mere bandying of personal testimonies is useless. If a man has reached the conclusion that he has found a cure for some ailment nothing will shake that conviction; in the same way belief that some food or drug is dangerous cannot be shaken by process of reasoning.
For all, in the last issue, argue from their own experiences where foods and drugs are concerned. Inquiry should be directed therefore to the discovery of objective signs of injury. Experiments to that end can undoubtedly be devised and might, if properly controlled afford information of the greatest importance. It would then be possible perhaps to answer the question whether or not the bad effects imputed by some of the use of aluminium in cooking are evidence of an intolerance to this metal which is personal and individual. It is obviously in the public interest that doubt should be set at rest as soon as possible.