Professor Chris Exley is alarmed by a recent study which suggests that patients needing transfusions may be exposed to high levels of aluminium and says regulators need to act now.
Some fluid warming systems could be heavily contaminated with aluminium, according to research published in the journal Anaesthesia.
Researchers have highlighted a significant and dangerous issue associated with some fluid warming devices which automatically warm blood, blood products and IV solution to 40°C to help prevent hypothermia during transfusions.
One such product was shown to release dramatically significant amounts of aluminium into the warmed product. The aluminium concentration in balanced electrolyte solutions warmed by this system approached 7000 microgram/L! This concentration of aluminium is alarming; consider that the US FDA recommend that the aluminium content of such solutions should not exceed 25 microgram/L
The origin of the aluminium is clearly the uncoated aluminium plate used in the heating process. Similar issues with aluminium heating plates have been noted in electronic cigarettes.
How many individuals have been subjected to these toxic levels of aluminium from devices such as this? An immediate moratorium on the use of devices which use non-coated aluminium heating cartridges must now be implemented until we know more. It is not acceptable that patients may potentially be at risk of immediate and future intoxication by aluminium. They may require chelation therapy to help to remove aluminium from their body. Exposure to this concentration of aluminium in warmed blood, blood products and IV solutions is potentially a future time bomb for affected individuals, the numbers of which may be in the thousands. Authorities and regulatory bodies must act now.
Honorary Professor, UHI Millennium Institute
Group Leader - Bioinorganic Chemistry Laboratory at Keele