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Acid Rain

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what research has been performed in Britain to investigate any possible links between acid deposition and the following ailments: dialysis dementia, dialysis osteomalacia, dialysis dystrophy. and Alzheimer's disease; and if he will summarise the results.

[pursuant to her reply, 6 May 1987, c. 428]: Acid rain normally leads to the deposition of mildly acidic substances based on oxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. It is suggested that an increased level of aluminium in water sources may occur because acidic solutions can leach aluminium from the soil, rocks and sediments, but there is no direct evidence of a link between acid rain and aluminium concentrations in water sources. Water undertakers monitor and adjust the level of aluminium in supply to conform with the requirements of European Community directive 80/778 on the quality of water intended for human consumption, and therefore levels in supply generally do not reflect levels in sources.Aluminium in dialysis fluids is known to be a cause of dialysis dementia, dialysis osteomalacia and dialysis dystrophy. So that dialysis patients may be safeguarded, water undertakings have been asked to notify health authorities if, for technical reasons, aluminium levels in water supplies are raised; in these circumstances, water used for dialysis would be expected to be treated to remove excess aluminium.Aluminium is not readily absorbed through the digestive tract, and from this source is not considered to have adverse health effects on the general population. The suggestion that it may be related to Alzheimer's disease is being investigated by a number of Medical Research Council research units. The MRC is the main Government-funded agency for United Kingdom biomedical research receiving a grant-in-aid from the Department of Education and Science. The director of the Medical Research Council neuroendocrinology unit at Newcastle recently stated that there is no evidence that aluminium by itself is the cause of Alzheimer's disease, and that much evidence points to the contrary.