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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."