Most of us, god willing, use deodorants or antiperspirants every day. It's common courtesy, especially when you living a part of the country that gets really hot every summer. But some of these products contain chemicals that could be dangerous.
Deodorants and antiperspirants, both usually designed for underarm use, are over-the-counter products. Deodorants are designed to mask the scent of the sweat your emit. The FDA considers them cosmetics. But antiperspirants are supposed to make you sweat less. Because antiperspirants affect how your body functions, they're classified by the FDA as drugs.
The active ingredient in most antiperspirants is an aluminum-based compound. Those ingredients include aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, and aluminum zirconium. Among the chemical cocktail designed to make your pits smell good is triclosan, used in some antiperspirants and deodorants. Some deodorants contain parabens, as preservatives, and phthalates, to create a nice smell.
Aluminum is a neurotoxin. The aluminum products used in most antiperspirants and some deodorants have been linked to cancer, irritation, endocrine disruption and developmental/reproductive toxicity. Visit the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database for details and links to studies.
Aluminum has raised concerns that it may cause Alzheimer's disease. Some autopsies of Alzheimer's patients have shown a buildup of aluminum. The disease had affected more and more people at a time when we are using more aluminum can and pans, eating more foods with aluminum and using more cosmetics containing aluminum.
Japan and Canada restrict the use of triclosan in cosmetics. The European Union considers it an irritant. Studies have linked it to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, organ toxicity, bioaccumulation and more. Go to the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database's triclosan page for details and links to 333 studies on its toxicity.
Parabens and phthalates are getting a lot of buzz right now for their potential dangers.
A frequently e-mailed claim is that antiperspirants cause breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute, FDA, the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association say it doesn't. Even the folks who have concerns with aluminum and triclosan largely pooh-pooh the breast cancer claim. (The e-mail says the product gets in tiny cuts and spread cancer-causing toxins by blocking lymph nodes.) Women aren't supposed to wear antiperspirants or deodorants to mammograms, but this is so they don't create abnormalities on the X-rays. So stop forwarding this e-mail, OK? Instead, send your female friends information about aluminum compounds and triclosan.
The FDA ruled in June 2003 that over-the-counter antiperspirants are generally recognized as safe and effective. So they're still out on the shelves.
The Alzheimer's Association:
The Alzheimer's Association says few experts still believe there is a link between Alzheimer's and aluminum.
You don't have to smell or risk your health. You can make your own deodorant or buy one of the commercially available products that don't contain any of these questionable chemicals.
- Look around for options you haven't considered and read the listed ingredients. (Ammonium alum, aka mineral salts, looks to be safe, so don't see the "alum" part and think it's hidden aluminum.) If you don't know if an ingredient is safe, visit www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/.
- Look for brands that aim to be natural, like Tom's of Maine and Burt's Bees. These brands are upfront about what goes into their products and won't make you visit the store to get the ingredients. For other options, Google phrases like "safe deodorant" and "natural deodorant." But always check the labels!
- Let the rock be your rock. Search "deodorant rock" on Google or look for an option at your grocery store. (Crystal Body Deodorant is a common brand.) It's a hunk of mineral salts (aluminum alum) you wet and rub in your pits. It's a deodorant. It takes a few days to get used to it, but once you are, you'll probably like it a lot.
- You may have to give up on being dry as a bone when it's 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity. It takes unnatural things to create that unnatural feat.
The bottom line:
I can't prove to you there is anything wrong with the product you are using now. But I can tell you that you can get products that work just as well that don't contain neurotoxins and other potential threats.
This is one of those cases were you have to weigh the risk. If you keep using what you are using, and I'm wrong, you get to laugh at me. If I'm right, you're putting yourself at risk for what? Brand loyalty?