Antiperspirant and deodorant user trial

Here’s all you need to know about sweat and how to avoid those dreaded white marks.
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  • Updated:23 Jun 2008

05.Antiperspirant concerns

Are antiperspirants bad for you?

Some people argue that the body sweats for a reason, and therefore antiperspirants that stop you sweating are bad. However, only 1% of the body’s sweat glands are located in the arm pits, so you won’t overheat and die by using antiperspirants. Besides, antiperspirants don’t entirely prevent perspiration -- the best ones reduce sweating by only 30%.

Do they cause breast cancer?

Some years ago, there were claims that antiperspirants are the ‘leading cause of breast cancer’.

One explanation given was that by stopping perspiration, antiperspirants allow toxins to build up in armpit lymph nodes (near the breasts), leading to cell mutations (cancer) in that area.

Another proposed explanation was that parabens, a preservative found in antiperspirants and deodorants, were found in breast cancer tissue and were claimed to have caused the cancer. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products investigated these claims and decided that methyl and ethyl parabens were safe to use as recommended, but that there wasn’t enough data on other forms of paraben to draw a definitive conclusion.

However, if parabens and toxins still alarm you, many extremely thorough epidemiological studies have failed to find that using an antiperspirant is even a risk factor for developing breast cancer, let alone the leading cause of it.

What about the aluminium in antiperspirants?

Aluminium is a known neurotoxin, and high levels can cause brain cell damage. It has also been linked with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) though the link is controversial and it doesn’t appear to actually cause AD.

As the third most common element on the earth’s crust (after oxygen and silicon), aluminium is found in all sorts of products with which we have contact, including air, water, food (especially processed foods such as baking powder, colourings, anti-caking agents, processed cheese, and acidic food cooked in aluminum utensils), drinks (soy-based infant formula, drinks stored in aluminium cans) and drugs (antacids, some forms of aspirin, vaccines).

It’s estimated we eat 5-20 mg of aluminium per day, almost all (more than 99%) of which is passed out without being absorbed into the bloodstream. The aluminium content absorbed from antiperspirants has been measured at about 4 micrograms, which is about 2.5% of the daily amount absorbed from the gut.

Kidneys filter much of that from the bloodstream. People with kidney disease have an increased risk of aluminium toxicity because their kidneys can’t effectively filter it from the blood. Massive doses of aluminium have been found to cause dementia (though not AD) in people with severely impaired kidney function.

Do spray-on deodorants harm the environment?

There are two main environmental concerns with spray deodorants: the propellant used and the packaging. Aerosol cans used to contain chloroflurocarbons (CFCs), which were implicated in the destruction of the ozone layer. These have long been banned, and safer alternatives are now used. Many councils collect aerosol cans for recycling. Contact your local council if you’re not sure.


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