Aluminum: The most abundant metal on earth. And it has no natural, biological purpose. But over the past 100 years aluminum has become a necessity for modern life. We use aluminum in industry, packaging, medicine, and cosmetics. But from its mining through its manufacture to its use, it is also an incredibly destructive metal. It’s a substance that is used to produce allergies in lab animals, and aluminum’s appearance in drinking water is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and increased cancer rates.
The Age Aluminum, produced by tonight’s guest Claire Dwoskin, is a sobering look at this ubiquitous metal and its horrible consequences. Claire Dwoskin, through her family foundation, has funded aluminum adjuvant research featured in or related to the research discussed in The Age Aluminum.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of Brazilian rainforest stripped bare, then the earth is dug up for bauxite, which is then processed with caustic soda, creating a toxic red mud and polluting the water. The powdered aluminum is then transported to be smelted into metal or used in consumer goods such as cosmetics.
In Europe, energy is 45% of the production cost in aluminum (elsewhere in it 30%), requiring 10x the amount of energy needed to produce steel; though in recycling, it only requires half the energy of iron to scrap. Because it is so energy dense, it is very explosive in a liquid state, this explains how the aluminum in the hijacked planes contributed to the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11–the melted aluminum from the planes hit the sprinkler systems and created an explosive reaction.
Focusing on the devastating effects of aluminum mining in South America, environmental disasters in Hungary and the UK, with both personal stories and scientific data, The Age of Aluminum is eye-opening and deeply sad, pointing out that we are indeed the architects of our own destruction, seeing convenience and ease, despite the destruction that it causes to ourselves and to the planet as a whole.