It is regularly stated that aluminum cooking pans are unhealthy, but I come accross them very often. I see people cooking both alkaline and acid foods in them, scrape them with metal, leave food overnight in them, wrap sandwiches in aluminum foil etc.

How bad is it really?

  • Why shall it be unhealthy? – user unknown Aug 17 '11 at 23:24
  • The possible risks are discussed in my answer, below. – unforgettableid Mar 31 '17 at 17:23
  • Dear ufotds: It would be good if you could please accept some answer, by clicking the gray checkmark icon. – unforgettableid Mar 31 '17 at 17:23
  • for possible roots of this myth: in some communities with extremely limited nutrient intake, the iron from cast-iron crockery was actually a needed source of iron, so the switch to aluminium pots brought iron deficiencies - instead of switching back to the cumbersome iron ware they now get iron bars to drop into the pots during cooking. So Al wasn't the culprit, just lack of Fe. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/10073514 – bukwyrm May 16 at 4:49

Here is one reasonably reputable article on the subject: Aluminium & Alzheimer's, ABC Science

The short answer, as far as I can find out, it no, they aren't unhealthy. The article I've referenced gives some history as to where the belief originated.

Here's a quotation of the most relevant part of the article:

Aluminium has had bad press for a long time, mostly beginning around the 1920s. Rudolph Valentino's death in 1926 at the tender age of 31 was blamed on aluminium poisoning from aluminium cookware - but he was actually killed by a perforating stomach ulcer. Howard J. Force, a self-proclaimed "chemist" added momentum to the anti-aluminium movement with pamphlets such as Poisons Formed by Aluminum Cooking Utensils. It was probably not a coincidence that he also sold cookware - stainless steel cookware.

The first scientific "evidence" about aluminium's toxicity appeared in the mid-1970s. People with Alzheimer's Disease have typical changes in the brain that can be seen only with a microscope. They're called "neuro-fibrillary tangles". Various studies found high concentrations of aluminium at autopsy in the brains of people suffering with Alzheimer's Disease - and almost always in the characteristic neuro-fibrillary tangles in the nerves. So, did the aluminium cause Alzheimer's Disease? No. It eventually turned out that the neuro-fibrillary tangles were very "sticky" - and absorbed the aluminium out of the water used to wash them.

As a further references 'Aluminium accumulation in relation to senile plaque and neurofibrillary tangle formation in the brains of patients with renal failure' states:

These data suggest that it is unlikely that aluminium plays any major role in neurofibrillary tangle formation and that its putative role in senile plaque formation is likely to be only part of a complex cascade of changes.


We don't know how risky aluminum is. (Source.)

In Germany, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) wondered about cooking pans too.

They wrote an article named "FAQs about aluminium in food and products intended for consumers". I shall quote a bunch from that article; their final answer is at the end of my post.

What health risks does aluminium absorption pose?

Any assessment of the hazardous potential of aluminium focuses is on its effects on the nervous system and the fact that it is toxic to reproduction (effects on fertility and unborn life) as well as the effects of aluminium on bone development.

When aluminium is ingested with food, its acute toxicity is low. ... But even in healthy individuals, the light metal accumulates in the body in the course of a lifetime, especially in the lungs and the skeletal system.


What quantities of aluminium can be absorbed ... without any health risks?

For oral intake from food, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has derived a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 1 milligramme (mg) of aluminium per kilogramme of bodyweight.

Finally, later in their article, they answer your question:

Can I continue to use aluminium cooking pots / pressure cookers?

Provided that they are coated, yes. If they are not, no salty or acidic foods such as apple purée, rhubarb or salted herring should be prepared or stored in such pots.


If you want to regard studies as evidence, there have been a few worth mentioning which will be linked to below. I tend to err on the side of caution with the irrefutable increase in the incidence of AD in recent decades (the Precautionary Principle). Due to this coupled with concerns raised by various scientific studies of the health effects of aluminum consumption, I would argue the risk is warranted at some level. To me, the argument is similar to the GMO argument. We simply haven't studied extensively enough to definitively prove the issue one way or another (especially given the contradictory studies on both these and many other matters); in other words, we can neither prove nor disprove the concerns raised by preliminary studies. I can find evidence for both sides of this argument (just look at the links in the previous answer). If you're skeptical of the Aluminum industry (or any other industry for that matter), then avoiding aluminum would probably be for the best. I know my kitchen has no aluminum utensils.

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    Welcome to Skeptics! This answer has a number of issues. 1) The question asks how unhealthy aluminum pans are. You answer that you are scared, but not how dangerous they are. 2) You claim with no reference that there is an "irrefutable" increase in AD. Please provide a reference for that showing a higher prevalence (preferably controlled for an aging population and improved diagnoses). You claim there have been insufficient studies - please provide a reference to support that. – Oddthinking Nov 5 '15 at 23:38
  • Once upon a time we thought that Alzheimers disease was associated with aluminium when Al was found in the brain of victims. But this proved to be an artefact of the analytical technique. There are no clear epidemiological associations known (unless you can have references otherwise.) – matt_black Nov 7 '15 at 0:41
  • Thanks for the links, one study seems to establish that kitchen gear definitely leaks aluminum into foods and water, whereas the french study seems to shed serious doubts on claims that there is no link between Alzheimer and aluminum. – user4513 Nov 7 '15 at 16:47
  • I agree, the argument against aluminum is similar to the argument against GMOs. – kbelder 2 days ago

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