News / Arts & Entertainment

New Documentary Explores Aluminum's 'Dark Side'

New Documentary Explores Aluminum's 'Dark Side'i
X
April 29, 2013 11:47 PM
Aluminum is everywhere. From airplanes to cooking pans, this versatile, light-weight metal has been around for generations. And its many benefits have made life easier and more convenient for millions of people. But a new documentary portrays what the filmmaker describes as the "dark side" of aluminum. VOA’s Julie Taboh attended the movie's world premiere at a Washington film festival and has this report.
Aluminum is everywhere.  From airplanes to cooking pans, this versatile, light-weight metal has been around for generations.  And its many benefits have made life easier and more convenient for millions of people. But a new documentary portrays what the filmmaker describes as the "dark side" of aluminum.  
 
It’s in the cans we drink out of and in the products we like to cook with.
 
Aluminum is everywhere, including in products that make us feel better, safer and cleaner.  Like antacids, sunscreen and antiperspirants.
 
But Austrian filmmaker Bert Ehgartner says there’s another side to aluminum. “It has a lot of good plus[es].  But there is also a dark side of this metal," he said. 
 
Ehgartner explores that alleged "dark side" in his new film, The Age of Aluminum.
 
The documentary shows the mining and production of aluminum and its resulting impact on the environment.
 
One sees the mining of bauxite, an ore that contains a large amount of aluminum hydroxide, from a rainforest in Brazil. The film shows how large areas of rain forest have to be dug up in order to reach the bauxite.
 
The toxic waste from aluminum production is then discarded over vast areas. 
 
And according to the film, the mining waste is apparently causing health problems for the nearby inhabitants who swim in the water, drink it and cook with it.  The children complain of itchy skin and have developed blisters.
 
The film also includes footage of a 2010 accident at a Hungarian aluminum factory.
 
Ehgartner says aluminum is also making people sick, in other ways - through the very products that make life more convenient, and safer, for so many.
 
“I was surprised, for example, when I found it in vaccines or when I found it in certain kinds of cosmetics and antiperspirants, even in foods. You find it everywhere," he said. 
 
Scientists in the film link aluminum found in those products to a wide variety of modern diseases, including breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, allergies and Autism.
 
Neuroscientist Dr. Christopher Shaw is particularly concerned about the link between aluminum, which can be found in drinking water and antacid medication, and Alzheimer’s, a fatal brain-wasting disease. 
 
“Many researchers are beginning to accept that aluminum has some sort of role to play in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  Whether it does in others is still an open question, but Alzheimer’s is really coming into focus and it's fairly clear that the body burden of aluminum from all the sources to which humans are exposed may be contributing to Alzheimer's disease," he said. 
 
But not everyone agrees with those findings.
 
The Aluminum Association declined our request for an interview but issued the following statement: 
 
The Age of Aluminum deviates from decades of mainstream scientific research and consensus. The weight of published scientific evidence demonstrates no direct causative link between aluminum and the illnesses depicted in the film.
 
“My first message would be don’t panic," said Melissa Perry, an epidemiologist at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. 
 
“The current status of the evidence does not give us definitive conclusions that aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s disease or other brain problems, or breast cancer. This means it’s critically important to conduct more human studies," she added. 
 
More studies - that's a point on which even The Age of Aluminum filmmaker Bert Ehgartner agrees. 
 
“So aluminum is really a threat for mankind and we don’t have enough research, and that’s one of the reasons why I made this film - to give support to the scientists who want to do more research. And I think it’s really necessary," he said. 
 
Experts on both sides of the issue agree that aluminum is here to stay.  They also agree that what is needed, at the very least, is more research to understand the link between aluminum and human health.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Matthew Wade sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his new CD, “Diamond from Coal,” his fourth album with his band, My Silent Bravery.