|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Aluminum Oxide is becoming a more and more popular substitute for silicon in abrasion processes. While there are advantages for the switch, there are still precautions in its use. As with any material used in abrasive processes, dust and other particulate material are generated. It is these so called by-products which are considered harmful to a worker's health. When just about any inert material (in dust and/or particulate form) enters the lungs, the body reacts to the foreign material in order to protect itself. This reaction would manifest itself in a chronic cough as the body tries to get rid of the insoluble material. Also, the abrasive nature of the materials scratch and cut the lining of the lungs. Despite ever so small cuts and abrasions, enough of them create scarring in the lungs which would then lead to pulmonary fibrosis. If severe enough, pulmonary fibrosis can be fatal. Aluminum Oxide is considered rather inert. Just about all literature lists it as a noncarcinogenic material. However, because of its abrasive nature, it is stated to be linked to chronic coughing and/or asthma as well as pulmonary fibrosis. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist (ACGIH) suggest a 10 mg/cm3 concentration of aluminum oxide averaged over an 8 hour workday exposure for workers. Studies and research on the toxic effects of aluminum suggests that in concentrations higher than normal living and environmental exposures (to include normal household living) could affect the nervous system and skeletal development. Studies with young rabbits showed a correlation to elevated aluminum exposures to the slower development of their neurological and skeletal systems. Other birth defects are being researched to see if high concentrations of aluminum contributed to the effect. Research has also focused on the correlation between Alzheimer's Disease and elevated aluminum concentration in the affected individual's brain. Researchers are still not clear if elevated aluminum concentrations contributes to an individual becoming affected by Alzheimer's Disease or if an individual already affected with Alzheimer's causes aluminum levels to become elevated. Studies in this area are still on going. Aluminum is a common and widely used metal. Its relatively inert and nontoxic effects have made it a choice of materials for many products. It is not an essential element in the body, but is tolerated at mild levels with few ill effects. However, as with any substance, though rated relatively harmless, too much of any one thing can at some point in time become harmful. Additional information on a wide variety of other compounds and materials may be researched through Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). The following websites provide information as well as additional links to information: EPA Fact Sheets - http://mail.odsnet.com/TRIFacts/ MSDS links - http://www.phys.ksu.edu/~tipping/msds.html
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