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Cornish contamination may spark Alzheimer's outbreak

20th April 2006

People from a town in north Cornwall hit by water poisoning in the 1980s may have to undergo health checks, after a former resident was found to have Alzheimer's disease.

A study in to the death of Carole Cross, 59, who had lived in the town of Camelford during the 1988 contamination, revealed a very rare form of Alzheimer's disease along with extremely high levels of Aluminium in areas of her brain.

It is thought that 20,000 people around the town may have drunk contaminated water after 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate were put in to the wrong treatment tank.

The report, published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, demands that residents must now be closely monitored.

Professor Daniel Perl of Mount Sinai School of Medicine wrote in an editorial for the journal: "If additional similar cases were to appear among the 20,000 exposed individuals then the implications of this incident would become extremely important. Only time will tell."

"At the very least, increased efforts towards surveillance of individuals exposed in Camelford is certainly warranted."

He adds that there is currently little epidemiological data currently linking high Aluminium levels with Alzheimer's.