Is Your Deodorant Really Safe?


If you would recall, a number of years ago some people had circulated e-mails asserting a connection between the use of deodorants and breast cancer. However, soon the assertion was confirmed to be a practical joke or hoax. Nevertheless, many still wonder if it was really a prank, or if there was some substance in what was being stated.

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According to Dr. James W. Coleman, an investigator on the epidemiology (study of disease caused by virus) of breast cancer in Louisville in Kentucky, soon after such e-mails were circulated, representatives of different foremost breast cancer institutions having economic ties with the cosmetic industry manufacturing deodorants issued proclamations discrediting the communication spread through the e-mails. Dr. Coleman, however, pointed out that none of the statements issued by these breast cancer organizations made any reference to any published testimony to authenticate their claims. On the contrary, the findings of a research on the subject publish in the January 12, 2004 issue of the Journal of Applied Toxicology hinted that there could be some truth in the information circulated through the e-mails.

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It would be worthwhile to note that Dr. Philippa Darbre, the head of the team that conducted the above mentioned study and a cancer researcher at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, has been engaged in scientific research for 20 years to study the methods of controlling the growth of cells of breast cancer. During her course of research, Dr. Darbre examined as many as 20 cases of human breast cancer and incidentally found the presence of parabens (artificial anti-microbial means used as cosmetic stabilizers) in 18 cases. According to Dr. Darbre, the presence of these harmful chemicals in the human breast tumor or lump is of great significance as earlier researches have established that parabens are capable of imitating the functioning of estrogens and augment the development of breast cancer.

Dr. Darbre and her team found out that the parabens present in the breast tumors comprised esters (an organic fragrant compound) and this pointed toward the fact that they may have entered the body through the skin. In other words, the parabens are likely to have been soaked up by the skin from body creams, body sprays and under-arm deodorants. It was also found that when the same parabens are consumed through foods, they undergo metabolism and drop the ester group. As a result of this, the parabens are less likely to imitate the growth inducing functions of estrogen.

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On the other hand, so far the cosmetic industry has been firm on its stand that the chemicals present in the deodorants cannot enter the body through the skin. They further maintain that even if some of these chemicals are soaked up by the skin and enter the body, they would soon undergo metabolism and be send out through excretion. The cosmetic industry has also asserted that keeping in view the manner in which the human body functions it is extremely difficult for these chemicals to infiltrate to the breast because physiologically the lymph (body fluid enclosing white cells) glands would normally remove all contaminants and straighten up. However, substantiating her findings, Dr. Darbre says that it would appear to be normal if the tumors happened in a uniform manner with 20 per cent surfacing in each of the five different areas of the breast. But during her research it was found that 60 per cent of all breast growths appear in just 1/5 of the breast - the upper outer quarter area of the breast that is nearest to the under-arm. Hence, Dr. Darbre claims that her findings substantiate her theory that the parabens are soaked up by the skin and infiltrate to the breasts leading to cancerous growths.

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It may be mentioned here that in addition to deodorants, the parabens are also present in other cosmetics like in body mists, body lotions, foaming cleansers, lipstick, body cream, facial cream, skin cream, hand lotion and moisturizers as well as body and shower gel. Apart from cosmetics, parabens also have industrial use and are present in oils, fats, glues and even shoe polish.

Meanwhile, Philip Harvey, an editor of the Journal of Applied Toxicology that published the findings of Dr. Darbre's research, is of the opinion that it cannot be said for sure that the parabens are really liable for breast tumors, but keeping in view the alarming rise in breast cancer globally, it may be certainly said that these chemicals are somehow or the other related to the disorder. Philip Harvey further suggests that the findings of Dr. Darbre's research needs to be construed carefully. At the same time, he admits that the findings of the research are of utmost significance as they demonstrate that the estrogenic elements have been discovered in the breast and hence it is also true that they can be absorbed by the body, through the skin or otherwise.

What you need to search

Apart from the parabens, there are several other artificial elements that are present in the cosmetics like deodorants that are basically used under-arm. These synthetic chemicals include aluminum salts that include potassium alum, which are known to putting off sweating by blocking up the sweat pores.

The other artificial chemicals usually found in the under-arm cosmetics are: a synthetic preservative called BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), an emulsifier, carrier and petroleum product known as propylene glycol and ethylhexylglycerine obtained from a petrochemical product and used as a synthetic chemical addition as well as an anti-bacterial. Borax or boric acid found in the under-arm cosmetics is essentially a toxic product, while polysorbate 20 is a fatty acid ester where the number 20 denotes that the substance has been exposed to ethylene oxide also identified as human carcinogen.

In addition to the above mentioned synthetic chemicals, under-arm cosmetics also contain streareth 100, which can be obtained from vegetables and is made to undergo a chemical reaction with ethylene oxide or ethoxyated, synthetic fragrance that comprises 95 per cent synthetic compound obtained from petroleum and triclosan, which is an artificial anti-bacterial mediator, antibiotic or a biocide.

The brighter side

While we have briefly discussed the harm the synthetic chemicals present in cosmetics can do, remember that there is a brighter side of the whole episode too. Look around and you will be amazed to know and find that there are so many natural substitutes to the artificial chemicals present around us. If you cannot find them yourself, look for them in the health food store in your vicinity, cooperatives, pharmacies as well as the online stores available on the Internet. While looking for natural cosmetics, you need to search for deodorants that are 'paraben free', 'propylene free' and 'aluminum free'. It is advisable to keep away from products or items that are tricky to enunciate or pronounce.

Now the crucial question is how we minimize our coming close to the artificial as well as ecological toxins. Will the problem be resolved by avoiding using the constituents present in the cosmetics, particularly in the armpits, or should we need to read the labels on the different cosmetic products more carefully and ask questions and seek answers to them before using them? What ever may be the case, it is essential that each one of us need to answer these questions to keep ourselves and others free from toxins.


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