Aluminum is the third most naturally abundant element in the environment, found in food, water, pharmaceutical as well as a wide range of consumer products. Aluminum is commonly found in products such as:
- Dental implants
- Nasal sprays
- Processed cheeses
- Baking soda
- Bleached flour
- Prepared doughs
- Case mixes
- Non-dairy creamers
- Vanilla powders
- Donuts and waffles
- Milk formulas
- Utensils/pots and pans
- Pain killers
- Cigarette fillers
So why should we care?
Simply put, aluminum attacks our central nervous system. The Department of Neurology and Psychiatry at Saint Louis University states that aluminum may cause liver toxicity and lead to degenerative symptoms, including Alzheimer’s Disease (Brenner, 2013). While additional research shows this that it may be be linked to onset of Alzheimer’s Disease; the FDA argues it does not. Meanwhile, the University of California studies shows it is linked to brain inflammation and brain disease (Bondy, 2010). Studies show that toxic metals contribute to brain diseases by producing oxidative stress and aluminum is one of the worst offenders (Kumar, 2009).
Did you know? (Oct 2013) New research from the UK found that a range of well known brands of baby formula sold contains 100 x more aluminum than breast milk (published in the journal BMC Pediatrics, examined 30 types of formula sold in the UK, including infant first milks and toddler milks.)
What about aluminum in antiperspirants? Is it linked to breast cancer?
Aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants; which basically clog the pores so that you do not sweat. Deodorants, on the other hand, have the main duty of preventing odor; they do not stop perspiration.
At the time of my research, there was insufficient scientific evidence to support a claim that use of cosmetics such as antiperspirants increase an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.
2001 Study – Linking Aluminum to Breast Cancer Cells
This study suggested that aluminum has estrogen-interfering effects and could increase the risk of breast cancer. This study also showed that the amount of aluminum absorbed through the skin from antiperspirants is 40 times less than average daily exposure from food and water.
Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer (Darbre, 2005).
This preliminary study showed that the use of aluminum chlorohydrate, the active ingredient in many antiperspirants, does not lead to a significant (vs. ingestion via diet) increase in aluminum levels in the body with one-time use (Flarend, 2001).
2002 Study – Time of Applying Antiperspirant/Deodorant After Shaving
This study also did not show any increased risk for breast cancer in women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant. The results also showed no increased breast cancer risk for women who reported using a blade (nonelectric) razor and an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant, or for women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant within 1 hour of shaving with a blade razor. These conclusions were based on interviews with 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women with no history of breast cancer (Mirick, 2002, cancer.gov).
2003 Study – Shaving Frequency & Antiperspirant/Deodorant Use
Findings from a different study examining the frequency of underarm shaving and antiperspirant/deodorant use among 437 breast cancer survivors were released in 2003 (McGrath, 2003). This study found that the age of breast cancer diagnosis was significantly earlier in women who used these products and shaved their underarms more frequently. Furthermore, women who began both of these underarm hygiene habits before 16 years of age were diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age than those who began these habits later. While these results suggest that underarm shaving with the use of antiperspirants/deodorants may be related to breast cancer, it does not demonstrate a conclusive link between these underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer (cancer.gov).
2006 Study – Antiperspirant Use on Women With & Without Breast Cancer
Researchers examined antiperspirant use and other factors among 54 women with breast cancer and 50 women without breast cancer. The study found no association between antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer; however, family history and the use of oral contraceptives were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (Fakri, et. al., & 2006; cancer.gov)
The FDA views aluminum as GRAS; generally recognized as safe. While the FDA acknowledges that small amounts of aluminum can be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and through the skin; the overwhelming mass of toxicity data available does not indicate any risk of harmful effects from using any cosmetic products that contain aluminum.
The FDA now requires all antiperspirant products to include a warning statement that advises people with kidney disease to consult a physician before using the product.
Aluminum powder is FDA approved as safe for use for coloring cosmetics.When used in a cosmetic product, per FDA regulations, the safety of the ingredient must be substantiated by the manufacturer of the product. When the ingredient is used as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug active ingredient, such as in antiperspirants, a manufacturer can only use the aluminum active ingredients that have been approved as safe and effective by the FDA in the OTC antiperspirant monograph and these products can only be used according to the guidelines established in this monograph.
So what is the alternative to aluminum-based antiperspirants?
Surprisingly, there are quite a few products on the market today that do not contain parabens or aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants. Look for items in the “natural” section of your grocery store or online and read the ingredients. Look for products that are aluminum-free. Some natural deodorants and antiperspirants ingredients include any combination of mineral salts, potassium alum, baking soda, arrow root powder, witch hazel, essential oils.
Evidence will always be conflicting; but as I always say, it’s best to have a life goal of reducing your overall exposure to chemicals. — Dahlia
Stay tuned for more excerpts from my presentation “READ THE LABEL: Understanding Natural and Organic Skin Care.”
Written by Dahlia Kelada, from her presentation READ THE LABEL: Understanding Natural & Organic Skin Care © 2013 All Rights Reserved
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“Antiperspirant Drug Products For Over-the-Counter Human Use; Final Monograph”. U.S. Food and Drug Administration
“Antiperspirant Chemical Found in Breast Tumors”. WebMD Health News.
“Concern over deodorant chemicals”. BBC News. January 11, 2004.
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Brenner S. (2013) Aluminum may mediate Alzheimer’s disease through liver toxicity, with aberrant hepatic synthesis of ceruloplasmin and ATPase7B, the resultant excess free copper causing brain oxidation, beta-amyloid aggregation and Alzheimer disease. Med Hypotheses. 2013 Mar;80(3):326-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.11.036. Epub 2012 Dec 20.
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Kumar V, Gill KD (2009). Aluminium neurotoxicity: neurobehavioural and oxidative aspects. Arch Toxicol. 2009 Nov;83(11):965-78. doi: 10.1007/s00204-009-0455-6. Epub 2009 Jul 1. Review.
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