a collection of intriguing lessons and quizzes
The goddess of knowledge, data, and other imaginary things
a graduate engineering school Wordelizer: the only way to deeply examine words, definitions, rhymes, you'll mine them here
Business ESL as well as Business Principles taught creatively and professionally


Alzheimers + Acid Rain  = Berylium?

Is Berylium the real culprit in these two cases? Berylium a light toxic metal and yet practically the twin sister of Aluminium. Could Science in its race to specialize have forgotten one of the basic chemical facts? Let me tell you how I came to consider this possibility.

I would like to recount a series of curious coincidences. The first concerns acid rain. Several years ago, I read many articles about the trees in the Black Forest of Germany. It seemed the trees were dying. The tops of the trees would die first and eventually the entire tree would die. The affected trees had very high levels of aluminum. I associated the tops of the trees and Alluminum perhaps mistakenly. The trees  were also attacked by insects. Most of the scientists at the time concluded that the trees were weakened by pulses of acid rain that leached the aluminum out of the soil and this then made the trees vulnerable to attacks by insects. It seemed so logical that if the trees had enormous levels of aluminum that this would perhaps choke off other nutrients. I don’t know any one tried to test this by giving trees massive doses of aluminum to see if this element really weakened the trees. Normally trees are exposed to Aluminum every day without harmful effects. Some suggested that the acid stressed the tree or that there was a lack of nutrients, etc. Somehow it was concluded thatAluminum itself was innocent. However it was proved that the forest degradation was the fault of the acid rain and without such pulses of acidity the trees would be healthy. Nowadays, acid rain is not the cause célèbre any more. One would almost think that the problem had been solved
Okay, now let’s take a look at Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimers and Aluminum

The link with Alzheimers and aluminum is clearly marked but no less puzzling. In the early nineties there were a plethora of articles on the relationship between Alzheimers and Aluminum. I think I read an issue of Discover Magazine where there were articles on both Alzheimers and Aluminum and acid rain. This set me wondering if there was there some link between the two problems? It is easy to see where they resemble.
Like the trees Alzhemers patients have high levels of aluminum in their brains. (The tops go first.) There are numerous articles which seem to indicate that high levels of aluminum in the water supply means increased incidence of Alzheimers in the general populace. Therefore just like the trees the water is the source of the excess aluminum. At the time it seemed like Allumium might be the key to Alzhiemer's even to its prevention.
Today in  Alzhemer's research aluminum has been more or less exonerated as the culprit. As a matter of fact to even suggest that Aluminum is implicated in Alzhemer's is met with ridicule scorn. Yet at one time the scientific community was sure that Alluminum was implicated. To explain why Aluminum was concidered the "bad boy" you have to look at the past.

Dialysis Dementia:

Alzhemers patients have characteristic pattern to their deterioration. They go through stages losing more and more of their memories and abilities. Kidney patients undergoing dialysis used to undergo the same symptoms when aluminum hydroxide (Al OH) was given to prevent clotting.(I am pretty sure that was the reason that Al OH was injected). When animals were injected with Al OH their symptoms too, mimicked Alzhemers. But here’s the rub: When the kidney patients no longer had injections of aluminum hydroxide their symptoms disappeared. When the lab animals that had been injected with aluminum hydroxide were dissected they showed none of the characteristic damage that Alzheimer patients have in their brains. Alzheimer's patients develop bundles or warped areas in their brains and holes as well. But while many worked to discover how Alluminum could cause such damage other than its role of  indicator of the disease, they did not succeed. There doesn’t seem to any way to use an aluminum compound to cause the same damage found in Alzhemers patients. Let’s look at the last piece of the puzzle.

Beryllium Aluminum’s Evil Twin:

Alchemists were the precursors of modern chemists. In searching for gold they seemed to find everything else. While perhaps not understanding what they found Alchemists in the Middle Ages did discover many compounds and elements. Certainly to my mind one of their greatest achievements was deducing the existance of Beryllium. Why is that so amazing? . They thought everything could be explained by combinations of  fire, earth, air, water etc. (sounds a little like up, down, strange, and charm Quarks in mordern physics.) Besides, not really understanding what an element was,  two elements Alluminum and Beryllium resemeble each other physically (light grey metals) and chemically. Similar in chemical properties? This is a little strange since Beryllium has the atomic number 4 and Aluminum has the atomic number 11. They are no where near each other in the periodic table of the elements. The periodic table of elements, may I remind you, is arranged according to « families » in columns. Usually this works quite well, for example; the inert gases all have pretty much the same properties, in short if the element is in the same column as an other element these two elements will generally have the same properties or similar characteristics. This system does not work for Beryllium and Aluminum. This may be due to Alluminum's ability to mimic other elements.(see Aluminum Clusters Exhibit Multiple Personalities) These two metals react in the same way to the other elements even though they are not in the same column.
This means that if you add aluminum something or other to a solution and you get a white parciptate then if you add beryllium something or other to the same solution you again get the same white parciptate. As a matter of fact, there is an uncanny resemblance between Aluminum and Beryllium.This was common knowledge in the beginning of the twentyth century.*1. As far as I know they differ in only one common reaction: when Aluminum Hydroxide (remember that compound?) is in solution and you introduce carbon dioxide a (catalyst) the aluminum particulate out into a grey compound Al (OH)3 . In the same situation Beryllium Hydroxide would remain in the form Be OH and stay in solution .To get the Beryllium out of solution you have to change the ph to 12 (Basic as opposed to acidic) and you get  a Be(OH)2 particulate.
Did the ancient alchemists discover this reaction? No they didn’t. Well then how did they differentiate Aluminum which they knew since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans as alum which was used as an astringent and as a preparation for dyeing fabrics,  from Beryllium compounds? By taste, you see to them Beryllium compounds especially sulphates taste sweet. By the way, Beryllium is also known as Glucinium or Glucinum from the Greek;  glykys: sweet) And it was finally discovered (in oxide form) by Nicolas Louis Vauquelin  in 1798.
Please don't try to taste Beryllium compounds for  most substances (especially salts) made from Beryllium are poisonous, decidedly so. 

A Brief Industrial History of Beryllium Poisoning

During the 1930s, it was discovered that beryllium extended the lifetime of  fluorescent light bulbs. "During the following decade, the hard, grayish metal was identified as the cause of a potentially debilitating, sometimes deadly disease characterized by shortness of breath and inflammation, swelling, and scarring of the lungs." HealthAtoZ
In the early days not much care was taken to control Beryllium dust in the factories. The results were deadly.Many who got Beryllium dust in their lungs died although not all. There may be a genetic factor to this disease as in the cas of Alzhiemer's. At any rate the severity and rapidity of this industrial disease, Chronic Beryllium Disease  actually made it easier to believe claims later made for asbestosis.
Today because of its light weight many airplane parts are made from alloys of Beryllium. Actually Beryllium is everywhere in modern life: from dentestry,electronics, fiber optics,ceramics, bicycle frames, golf clubs, mirrors, to the atomic industry.
So many people have been exposed. Beryllium is a alkaline metals and not found free in nature because it is very reactive.  Humans like other animals on this planet were never exposed to pure Beryllium  in nature. Thus they never use it in their biological processes and have not evolved to handle Beryllium or remove it from their bodies. Indeed,  Beryllium metal powder is classified as a Class B Poison. Workers who got Beryllium dust embedded in their skin had to have the skin removed and new skin grafted in its place.This skin irritation , I remembered caused, if left untreated weird bundles and holes in the skin surface. (Sound familiar?). Although, I recently read discriptions results of this skin disease that were more like warts and ulcers. Still you get the picture. On a final note Berylliosis manifests itself in both acute and chronic forms and can wait twenty or thirty years to appear. A long slow developping disease like Alzhiemer's which is not proof but grounds for furthur or at minium some research

Why Was Berylium Overlooked?
One of the reasons that I have rewritten this piece is that there appears to have been no research done on this topic since 1997 when I first broached this idea. One factor was that my article was written before I was aware of search engines like yahoo and google so I had to rely totally on my memory and frankly I got many details wrong. Second, it many be that some heretofore common knowledge has been lost and is only just being rediscovered. I am speaking of course of the resemblance of Alluminum and Beryllium. Finally, how do I know that Berylium has never been concidered in the case of Alzhiemer's ? I can't be sure but by using Google Scholar I have found no trace of Berylium and Alzhiemer's except in my previous article Alzhiemer's Acid Rain and Alluminum. As you can see in the title even I forgot to mention Beryllium. Some people still think that I wrote about Alluminum. To this day I love short stories written by Edgar Allen Poe or O Henry.
They always saved the best or revealed the secret at the end of the story. However, as I know to my regret, that is not the case with Scientific articles or even web pages.

Wild Guesses

Up to this point in the article I have invented nothing, this has been common knowledge or maybe arcane knowledge. Now I would like to speculate on this subject. Let’s just take the example of acid rain. No one seems to know the exact mechanism causing the death of those trees. Well, I assume that if acid rain leaches Aluminum out of the soil it would have the same effect on Beryllium. Remember they are chemical Gemini. Once Beryllium entered the tree the tree would have the same chance as the industrial workers exposed to Beryllium dust, or to phrase it differently no chance. Now let’s suppose for an instant that the Beryllium is in the form of Be OH. If the tree sensed the excess presence of this compound would you think that the tree might react as it would to too much Al OH and try to remove it from solution? How would the tree do that? This again is pure speculation but I assume that it would use the simplest method which would be to introduce carbon dioxide into the solution . Of course this would not work on the Beryllium hydroxide but any Aluminum Hydroxide would particulate out. Over time you would end up with increasing amounts of Aluminum deposited in the tree and a small amount of Beryllium Hydroxide constantly circulating in the tree. Ironically this process might take out of system the Aluminum Hydroxide that the tree needs for everyday reactions.

Now it is time to look at Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps the same thing occurs. I assume that the culprit is minute quantities of Beryllium Hydroxide that is behind the blood brain barrier. I assume that the brain again reacts as if there were too much Aluminum Hydroxide and again tries to particulate out the excess. Again you would have large deposits of Aluminum. Perhaps as well the Beryllium would unlike the Aluminum Hydroxide cause damage to the brain. Maybe the Beryllium would cause similar bundles and holes in the brain like it does on the skin in its pure state.

Postscript

This seems to explain everything from acid rain to Alzheimer’s disease. Wait, I could be wrong about Beryllium Hydroxide, after all it is only a hunch. It could be another Beryllium compound. But, I think I have made a case for a little study on the matter. It is true that these are nothing but wild guesses on my part. The argument for beryllium and acid rain would seem to be easy to ascertain. As to Alzheimer’s there are some questions that still puzzle me. It is easy to see that over a long life you could pickup infinitesimally small amounts on Beryllium and when you are sixty or eighty the result would be Alzheimer’s. But there is a problem and that is that children who have mongolism develop Alzheimer’s at forty. However there are indications that Beryllium exposure can alter or cause chromosone damage. (See XXXXXXX)
So I am wrong right? Well if Alzheimer’s were simply genetic then the amount of Aluminum in the water supply would not indicate increased risk for the disease, but it does. Oh well, maybe exposure to Beryllium Hydroxide has some sort of relationship with mongolism?

Does any one want to give me some lab space and a lab smock?



*1. Unfortunately a major source for this of this paragraph is that chemstry book that I borrowed from the Hyannis Public Library in the 1980s.
I was browsing the library the way we today use the internet. I came accross a chemistry book on the elements. It appearred to be a worn textbook
maybe from the 1950s . I took it home and read it cover to cover. I wish in this age of google that I could remember the name of the book.
Back to the subject, one of the things that struck me was the author's lament over the adoption of the periodic table of elements. This seemed highly
unlikely opinion for a chemistry teacher. The author went on to say that because of the brillance and ease of use of the periodic table that modern science
or at least students and their professors were forgetting many valuable and hard gained charactoristics of the elements. He went on to illustrate with the case of Alluminum and Beryllium that I mentioned in this mongraph.

If you have trouble finding what you want try searching just our school with google:

Google
Search The ecole des mines (emse.fr)
Search WWW

Christopher YUKNA
Advanced Learning Methods
tel : 33-(0)4-77-42-00-82
fax : 33-(0)4-77-42-00-00
email : yuknachris@yahoo.com
Délégation aux Relations Internationales
Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines
158 cours Fauriel
42023 SAINT-ETIENNE Cedex 2
BE : Business Emporium An ESL Business English site. Professional lessons with a touch of humor.
(subjects also included: the TOEIC test)
The Totally Unconventional:  A private collection of lessons and ideas for the teachers and professors of the world to share.Topics include: Sci-fi, Crime, The TOEFL, Drama, Logic, Computer Lingo, Design Concepts etc

Ce texte © 2004-2005 Christopher Yukna - tous droits réservés