Aluminum cans are possibly some of the most ubiquitous and seemingly harmless objects in the home kitchen. These cans generally are used to hold food items and beverages, and have been one of the more popular ways to store items for decades. There are a few dangers associated with these cans, however.
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Although aluminum cans, particularly beverage cans, may seem rounded and dull, they can pose a serious hazard if broken, crumpled or torn. The walls of the average beverage can are incredibly thin--roughly .09 millimeters. Thus, these cans are easily crumpled and can be torn with relative ease due to their flimsiness. When torn, the rigid aluminum that makes up the can may form jagged, sharp edges that can cause painful and occasionally deep cuts. While these cuts are rarely serious, they can become painful without proper care.
Because the contents of aluminum cans are often pressurized, the cans could rupture violently--essentially exploding--when the internal pressure becomes too great for the walls to hold. This is especially apparent when a soda can is shaken and it expands because of the newly released gas from the disturbed carbonated drink. While in most cases this simply results in a beverage that sprays out when opened, it can be more serious. In July 2010, New Zealand news media reported on cans containing a carbonated milk drink that exploded when the unrefrigerated contents fermented and blew out the tops of the cans.
Although the dangers are slight, aluminum poisoning can present serious health risks to those who have elevated levels of the element in their body. While this is more of a risk for those who live near areas where aluminum occurs naturally in high levels, it can also enter the body through food and drink stored in aluminum cans for a long period of time, according to a 1989 report by the Eck Institute of Applied Nutrition and Bioenergetics Ltd., published at Analytical Research Labs. Symptoms of aluminum poisoning include muscle weakness, bone pain and, in more severe cases, dementia, seizures and spinal deformity. These symptoms may be more pronounced in the elderly or those with deficient kidney function.