Chem Explorers

Aluminum: Properties Uses and Potential Health Risks

Introduction to Aluminum

Aluminum is a lightweight, non-toxic metal that has a wide range of uses in industries. Due to its high-corrosion resistance, it is an ideal material for many applications.

In this article, we will explore the history of aluminum, including its discovery, extraction, and uses.

Occurrence and Uses of Aluminum

Aluminum is the most abundant element on Earth’s surface after oxygen and silicon. It occurs naturally in mineral compounds such as bauxite, which is the primary source of aluminum.

Aluminum is widely used in commercial applications due to its unique properties. For example, aluminum is non-toxic and highly resistant to corrosion, making it suitable for use in the food and beverage industry.

It is also lightweight and strong, making it the material of choice for airplane manufacturers.

Discovery of Aluminum

Even though aluminum is abundant on Earth’s surface, it has not always been known to humans. The early Chinese believed in the existence of aluminum, as evidenced by the presence of aluminum-rich bronze artifacts found in a tomb thought to belong to the Chou-Chu period.

However, it was not until the 19th century that aluminum was discovered as an element. In 1807, Henry Davy attempted to extract aluminum from alumina by using sodium and potassium.

However, the process was not successful, and it was not until years later that aluminum was finally extracted in its pure form by Hans Oersted and Friedrich Wohler. They used aluminum chloride to create aluminum in an impure form, which was later purified through a series of chemical reactions.


In conclusion, aluminum is a crucial metal that exhibits unique properties that make it ideal for a variety of applications. It has a long history, dating back to ancient times, although it was not until the 19th century that it was discovered as an element.

Its high-corrosion resistance and lightweight make it ideal for use in transportation, food packaging, and other industries. Classification, Properties, and Characteristics of Aluminum

Aluminum is a chemical element with the atomic symbol Al and atomic number 13.

It is a member of the boron group of elements and belongs to the p-block of the periodic table. Aluminum is a silver-colored, lightweight metal that is soft and ductile.

It has a range of physical and chemical properties that make it ideal for a variety of commercial and industrial applications.

General Properties of Aluminum

The atomic mass of aluminum is 26.98, and it has an atomic radius of 1.43 angstroms. Aluminum has a physical appearance that is metallic and silverish.

It is a relatively soft metal with a density of 2.70 g/cm and has a melting point of 660.32 C and a boiling point of 2467 C, both of which are relatively low compared to many other metals.

Physical Properties of Aluminum

Aluminum exhibits several physical properties that make it ideal for various applications, including its excellent ductility and malleability. It is a soft metal that can be rolled into thin sheets or wires without cracking.

It also has high conductivity, which means that it can carry electricity efficiently. Aluminum is also relatively hard, with a surface hardness of 60 to 80 on the Brinell scale.

Chemical Properties of Aluminum

Aluminum exhibits a range of chemical properties that result from its electronic structure. It is highly reactive with oxygen, which forms a thin layer of aluminum oxide on its surface, protecting the underlying metal from further oxidation.

Aluminum is non-toxic and has a low flammability rate. When heated, it undergoes a solid-state reaction with halogens and becomes coated with a thin layer of the corresponding aluminum halide.

Uses of Aluminum

Everyday Products Made of Aluminum

Aluminum is used in everyday products such as fence gate panels, sidings, cans, tubing, pipes, wirings, foils, roofing, frying pans, railings, coatings, patio covers, wheels, brazing rods, screen doors, radiators, gas fuel tanks, and poles. The versatility of aluminum makes it popular in the construction and manufacturing industries, where it is used to create a range of products.

Use of Aluminum in Electrical Transmission Lines

Aluminum is a good conductor of electricity and has become a popular alternative to copper in electrical transmission lines due to its lower cost. It is widely used in high-voltage power lines due to its excellent conductivity and low density.

Aluminum wires and cables are also used in electrical installations for homes and businesses.

Alloying Aluminum with other Metals for Aerospace and Automotive Parts

Aluminum can be alloyed with other metals such as copper, magnesium, silicon, and manganese to create stronger and more durable materials with specific properties. Aluminum alloys are used in the manufacturing of a range of products, including ball bearings, automobiles, rockets, and airplanes.

The excellent strength-to-weight ratio of aluminum alloys has found applications in aerospace engineering, where it has been used to create lightweight parts for aircraft.

Other Uses of Aluminum

Aluminum has other applications, which include a reflective coating, telescope mirrors, toys, packages, decorative papers, and aluminum fuel ion air cells/batteries. Aluminum coatings are used in thermal insulation and radiant barriers to reflect heat and insulate the interior of buildings.

It is also used to manufacture mirrors and decorative papers due to its high reflectivity index. Furthermore, it is used as a fuel in aluminum fuel ion air cells/batteries, which produce electricity when aluminum is oxidized with an oxidizing agent.


In summary, aluminum is a highly versatile metal that has a wide range of uses in various industries. Its excellent physical and chemical properties make it an ideal material for everyday products such as cans, wirings, and pipes.

It is also widely used in the construction and manufacturing industry for products such as sidings, roofing, and coatings. Aluminum’s low cost and high conductivity have made it an alternative to copper in electrical transmission lines.

Moreover, aluminum alloys have found applications in aerospace and automotive parts due to their excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

Toxic Effects of Aluminum

Aluminum is a widely used metal in everyday products and industries because of its versatility, lightness, and corrosion resistance. However, there are toxic effects of aluminum exposure through inhalation or ingestion that can trigger serious health risks.

Long-term high-level exposure to aluminum can cause respiratory and lung-related disorders. Oral products or medications containing aluminum can cause renal problems in patients with poor kidney function.

Additionally, there has been some research that suggests a link between aluminum exposure and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Effects of Inhaling/Ingesting Aluminum

Aluminum inhalation can lead to respiratory damage and lung-related disorders such as interstitial fibrosis and pulmonary fibrosis.

It can also lead to bronchial constriction, chronic cough and asthma-like symptoms, and impaired lung function. Furthermore, long-term inhalation exposure to aluminum powder, which is used as a fine dust in some industrial processes, can cause lung cancer.

Ingesting aluminum can lead to systemic effects on the body. It is not considered a toxic substance by most medical practitioners, but it can have an accumulation effect in the body’s major organs, including the kidneys, brain, and bone.

Aluminum is used as an active ingredient in many antacids and over-the-counter medications and as a food additive. In particular, excessive intake of aluminum can cause aluminum toxicity, which can lead to dialysis-dependent renal failure in patients with pre-existing renal impairment.

There has been a correlation between aluminum exposure and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the hypothesis has not been fully proven, certain medical professionals suggest that aluminum exposure can undermine or compromise human brain function leading to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Some studies have shown that the accumulation of aluminum in the brain is higher in people that have Alzheimer’s disease compared to those that do not.

Interesting Facts about Aluminum

Expensive Cost of Aluminum Pre-Hall-Heroult Process

Before the Hall-Heroult process, aluminum used to be considered the “King of Metals” because it was rare and expensive, thus being more precious than gold. In the 19th century, the price was so high that Napoleon III, the Emperor of France, held a banquet using aluminum plates with the guests-ware made of gold plates.

Recyclability of Aluminum

Aluminum is a highly recyclable product, and can be reused indefinitely without losing its original properties. Recycling aluminum is also energy-efficient, and the recycling process uses only 5% of the energy required to create aluminum.

Because of its recyclability, aluminum packaging is considered an eco-friendly alternative to plastic packaging, and the recycling rate of aluminum packaging has been rising for the past few decades globally.

Aluminum Price

The price of aluminum is determined mainly by supply and demand, with the metal frequently experiencing wide price swings. During periods of high demand, such as the early 21st century, aluminum prices can soar.

For example, in the summer of 2008, the price for aluminum peaked at $3.17 per pound due to strong demand from countries like China, which was experiencing rapid industrialization during that period. Since then the price of aluminum has been relatively volatile, hitting a low of around $0.70 per pound in 2016 but later trending higher to recent highs above $1.20 per pound.


Aluminum is a widely used metal in many different industries because of its versatility and numerous properties. Though sometimes considered a toxic metal due to its potential effect on the human body from inhaling or ingesting it, aluminum is a non-toxic metal when regulated in products that humans consume.

Aluminum is also a highly recyclable metal, and its price can fluctuate greatly depending on the supply and demand of the market. In conclusion, aluminum is a versatile and widely used metal with various properties that make it valuable in many industries.

However, exposure to high levels of aluminum through inhalation or ingestion can have toxic effects on the respiratory system and kidneys. There is also ongoing research into the potential link between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer’s disease.

On a positive note, aluminum is highly recyclable and has a fluctuating price based on market demand. It is important to understand the potential health risks associated with aluminum and use it safely in everyday products.

Remember, proper regulation and awareness can help mitigate any potential adverse effects.



Can aluminum affect the respiratory system and lungs? Yes, long-term exposure to aluminum through inhalation can lead to respiratory damage, lung-related disorders, and even lung cancer.

2. Is aluminum toxic when ingested?

Aluminum is not considered toxic in normal amounts, but excessive intake can lead to aluminum toxicity and renal problems, especially in individuals with pre-existing kidney impairment. 3.

Is there a link between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer’s disease? There is ongoing research into the potential connection between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer’s disease, although a conclusive link has not been established.

4. Is aluminum recyclable?

Yes, aluminum is highly recyclable and can be reused indefinitely without losing its original properties. 5.

How does the price of aluminum fluctuate? Aluminum prices are determined by supply and demand, and they can vary greatly.

Factors such as industrial demand, economic conditions, and global supply affect the price of aluminum. Remember, it is crucial to use aluminum safely, be aware of potential health risks, and promote responsible recycling practices to mitigate any negative impacts.

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