Published on Monday, August 19, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
Alzheimer's in America:
The Aluminum-Phosphate Fertilizer Connection
by Lynn Landes
Americans are losing their minds to Alzheimer's disease. It's an epidemic. And it's not typical of what's going on in the rest of the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 18 million people with Alzheimer's. Over 4 1/2 million Americans have the disease. We account for 25% of all Alzheimer's cases, even though we represent only 4.6% of the world's population. Europe is experiencing half our rate of disease. For Americans over 85 years of age, 50% are thought to have Alzheimer’s.
The question is, "Why?"
Alzheimer's was first discovered in 1906. It is not a part of normal aging, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH contends that the cause of Alzheimer's is "not known." They say, "Prior theories regarding the accumulation of aluminum, lead, mercury, and other substances in the brain have been disproved."
Don't believe that. Federal agencies have a talent for not finding environmental causes for many diseases. They live by the motto, "Do not seek and thou shall not find." Genetic triggers and lifestyle choices get the research dollars for pretty obvious reasons - their findings don't hurt polluters’ profits.
The world's scientists and government researchers have not taken aluminum off the scientific table as a causal factor in Alzheimer's. Research scientists with the International Aluminum Network report, "Aluminum has been implicated ...as a potential factor or cofactor in the Alzheimer's syndrome, as well as in the etiopathogenesis of other neurodegenerative diseases, Parkinsonism, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and other diseases." That's a mouthful, but you get the picture.
Initially, it was thought that aluminum might be the sole cause of Alzheimer's. Persons with Alzheimer's have been found to experience increased absorption of aluminum in the brain, as well as exhibit densities of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. However, there are reports that suggest plaques and tangles do not always signify Alzheimer's, and vice versa.
Further clouding the issue are patients on kidney dialysis machines. They are unable to excrete aluminum, plus they may also be treated with medicines that include aluminum. However, reports say that dialysis patients don't develop Alzheimer's, although they can develop dialysis dementia if the equipment doesn't filter out aluminum. And therein lies a clue.
The process of kidney dialysis requires very purified, non-fluoridated water. What does this mean? Perhaps fluoride is aluminum's partner-in-crime.
In 1998 Julie Varner and two colleagues published research on the effects of aluminum-fluoride and sodium-fluoride on the nervous system of rats. They concluded, "Chronic administration of aluminum-fluoride and sodium-fluoride in the drinking water of rats resulted in distinct morphological alterations of the brain, including the effects on neurons and cerebrovasculature." In layman's terms, it looked like fluoride and aluminum could cause Alzheimer's.
That was not a definitive study, but they may have been onto something. Aluminum is in our drinking water, foods, and many consumer products. Adding fluoride to drinking water in the U.S. started in the 1950's. America's drinking water is now over 60% fluoridated. Fluoride appears in many processed foods and beverages made with fluoridated water. Keep in mind, Europe has half our rate of Alzheimer’s. They don't fluoridate their water supplies, but they do use fluoride supplements and dental products. Is there a connection?
There are other intriguing issues. Why do people with thyroid disease have an increased risk for Alzheimer's? In the U.S., thyroid disease has reached even greater epidemic levels than Alzheimer's, with as many as 20 million American victims. Besides problems with iodine intake, a common cause of thyroid disease is radiation.
There are also striking similarities between Alzheimer's, Creutzfeldt-Jacob-Disease (CJD), and mad cow disease. Mad cow has been linked to livestock feed and fertilizer.
So, what do radiation, livestock feed, fluoride, and fertilizer have in common which may have led to the emergence of the Alzheimer’s epidemic? The phosphate fertilizer industry.
"Fertilizer use was not a common practice in the United States until after 1870, when phosphate and lime were applied to crops like cotton and tobacco. By the end of World War II, an era of intensive agriculture began…," says Cargill Fertilizer. "Of the phosphate produced in Florida, about 95% is used in agriculture (90% goes into fertilizer and 5% into livestock feed supplements)." The remaining 5% is used in a variety of foods and beverages, plus personal care, consumer and industrial products.
George Glasser writes in the Earth Island Journal, "Radium wastes from filtration systems at phosphate fertilizer facilities are among the most radioactive types of naturally occurring radioactive material wastes...Uranium and all of its decay-rate products are found in phosphate rock, fluorosilicic acid (fluoride) and phosphate fertilizer."
The Florida Institute of Phosphate Research says, "Removal of uranium as a product is no longer profitable and all of the extraction facilities have been dismantled. The uranium that remains in the phosphoric acid and fertilizer products is at a low enough level that it is safe for use." That's not reassuring. Chronic exposure to low levels of contamination can be as dangerous, or more so, than chronic high levels of exposure or acute occurrences.
Of particular interest is calcium silicate, another byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry. One of its uses is as an anti-caking agent in iodized table salt. Is calcium silicate also radioactive? Would that have a significant impact on the thyroid? Given the relationship between Alzheimer's and thyroid disease, Alzheimer's may be destined to increase exponentially.
The phosphate fertilizer industry seems to be the common thread in Alzheimer's - and maybe also in thyroid and mad cow type diseases. Aluminum by itself may not cause Alzheimer's, but in combination with the radioactive products of the phosphate fertilizer industry, it could be wreaking havoc on our health.
Whatever the cause, we deserve real answers to the Alzheimer's epidemic, not the red herrings of research on genetics and lifestyle. The number of American victims is totally out of proportion to the incidence of Alzheimer's worldwide. Something truly has gone terribly wrong.
Lynn Landes is a freelance journalist specializing in environmental issues. She writes a weekly column which is published on her website www.EcoTalk.org and reports environmental news for DUTV in Philadelphia, PA. Lynn's been a radio show host and a regular commentator for a BBC radio program.