A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry highlights a case where a woman had a rare form of Alzheimer's disease after being exposed to high levels of aluminum courtesy the tap water. Carole Cross was 58 when she died in 2004.
Chris Exley, of Keele University, published the results of her post-mortem. The incident has been directly linked to the 20 tonnes of aluminum sulphate, which was accidentally dumped into the water supply at Camelford, in north Cornwall, in 1988. A minute examination of Mrs Cross' brain showed high levels of aluminum. "This may be a one off, although it is highly unlikely. In order to ascertain that we need to set up a rigorous and carefully planned monitoring programme of the health of the people so we can put their minds at rest," wrote Chris Exley in the journal. "The people of Camelford have had this hanging over their heads for almost twenty years, but there has not been any rigorous examination or monitoring of their health since the incident. We know aluminum is linked to neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease. It also goes hand-in-hand with bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, and blood disorders." Since the 1988 accident, residents in Camelford have complained of various illnesses, but no direct or clear link has been established. "Aluminium in the body increases with ageing but it could be that Mrs Cross was exposed to a lot of the chemical at a young age over a short period of time, which took her above the healthy threshold," the article notes. Since her death there have been a lot of reports of neurological disorders in Camelford. "We are in the process of organizing a proper monitoring of the health of the local population, but to carry it out will be very expensive and will require a lot of funding." Aluminium levels in Mrs Cross' brain were 23 micrograms per gram of brain well above the normal value of 0 to 2 micrograms per gram. The post mortem confirmed that she had a rare form of Alzheimer's. Writing a comment in the same journal, Professor Daniel Perl, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York said, "If additional similar cases were to appear among the 20,000 exposed individuals then the implications of this incident would become extremely important. Only time will tell. At the very least, increased efforts towards surveillance of individuals exposed in Camelford is certainly warranted."