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Most shoppers don't know, but antiperspirants contain toxic heavy metals. Rubbing deodorant under the arms inevitably leads to absorbing those chemicals, which will cause Alzheimer's disease or cancer. What the science really says?

The Often-Repeated Claim that Deodorants Cause Alzheimer's May Be True

Why most deodorants and antiperspirants contain aluminum. There is absolutely no doubt that aluminum chlorhydrate (mistakenly identified as aluminum chloride in a recent widely quoted Internet article) is used in the overwhelming majority of antiperspirants. The reason for this is that this aluminum compound is highly hygroscopic, soaking up water from sweat. Unlike the aluminum chloride with which some commentators confuse it, aluminum chlorhydrate is safe for application on the skin.

Aluminum chlorhydrate is not just used in antiperspirants. It is also used as a flocculant in some water treatment systems. Flocculants help dirt, debris, and bacteria settle out of the water so the fluid on top can be put into the water supply.

Does aluminum have a role in Alzheimer's disease?

Almost every metal that is abundant in the environment has some role in human health and nutrition, but there is nothing nutritional about aluminum. There is also no doubt that aluminum appears in brain tissue of people who have Alzheimer's. Several studies found aluminum in the bains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, for example [1] :

  • aluminum was found in all 144 tissues and its concentration ranged from 0.01 to 35.65 μg/g dry wt.
  • 40% of tissues (57/144) had an aluminum content considered as pathologically-concerning 
  • 58% of these tissues had an aluminum content considered as pathologically-significant.

Aluminum concentrations in the brain increase the older we get. It accumulates in the brains of people who have Alzheimer's disease, and in the brains of people who do not. Aluminum concentrations are unusually high inside the "tangles" that destroy the brain in Alzheimer's disease, but there is a question of whether aluminum causes tissue damage, or damaged tissue absorbs more aluminum.

Alzheimer's disease is not the only dreaded condition that may be caused by aluminum exposure. The European Journal of Cancer Prevention reports that "underarm shaving with antiperspirant/deodorant use may play a role in breast cancer." The chafing of the skin caused by shaving hair seems to increase absorption of aluminum.[2]

Like the link between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease, the link between aluminum and breast cancer is still controversial. But if there is even a possibility that aluminum causes either of these life-threatening and all too common conditions, why not err on the side of caution?

Without any doubt, aluminum is abundantly distributed in our environment, but it is also widely recognized neurotoxin. Aluminum inhibits more than 200 biologically important functions and causes various adverse effects in live organisms — plants, animals, and humans. Studies claim there is a relationship between aluminum exposure and neurodegenerative diseases, which include [3]:

  • dialysis encephalopathy,
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Parkinsonism-dementia,
  • Gulf War syndrome
  • and Alzheimer's disease.  
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