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The serial cognitive assessment of ten individuals made between 8 and 26 months after the water at Camelford in Cornwall was accidentally contaminated with aluminium sulphate, showed consistent evidence of impairment of information processing and memory. There was no obvious relationship between these impairments and measurements of anxiety and depression. Serial bone biopsies in two individuals showed that the aluminium which was present 6 and 7 months after the accident had disappeared by 19 months. In the eight individuals biopsied 12-17 months after the accident the bone showed no stainable aluminium. Thus, aluminium deposited in the bone of normal individuals can disappear within 18 months. After an accident such as that at Camelford important evidence of toxicity is likely to be missed if an investigation is delayed. The abnormal neuropsychological findings indicate cognitive impairment, but whether this was caused by an acute episode of brain damage, or other causes such as the psychological effects of stress resulting from the accident, is uncertain.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum exp toxicol

Publication Date





37 - 42


Accidents, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Alum Compounds, Anxiety, Bone and Bones, Cognition Disorders, Depression, Disability Evaluation, England, Female, Humans, Intelligence Tests, Male, Memory Disorders, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Poisoning, Water Pollutants, Chemical