It's a stinky situation
We are becoming more careful about what goes into our bodies. We are reading food ingredient labels, we are concerned about GMO in our crops, we are discriminating between saturated and unsaturated fats, between simple and complex carbohydrates. This is not only good, but crucial for our health... it's very important to be aware of what goes in our bodies. But what about the stuff going ON our bodies?
The skin is the largest organ of the body. Besides being wonderfully elastic, it also has the ability to absorb outside elements into the body... the reason why nicotine patches work. Just as we wouldn't really want to sprinkle a laboratory-mix of cancer-causing and mysterious toxic chemical compounds on our garden salad, why would we want to slather that same mixture onto our bodies? In a particularly sensitive place? It's easy to forget that when we apply our deodorants, many times that is just exactly what we are doing.
But please don't get the wrong idea here. Deodorant is important. It's not good to walk around stinking up the place. We work in close quarters, we cram into elevators, we stand in lines and hug our loved ones. And most of us have, at one time or another, come across a fellow human who has neglected their personal hygiene... it's not pleasant.
But scientists are beginning to link antiperspirant to Alzheimer’s disease, and as the armpit is the closest neighbor to the breast, some breast cancer researchers were also becoming suspicious of our antiperspirant/deodorant choices. As of today the FDA reports that there is no conclusive evidence that underarm products cause disease. The FDA... the same people who have given us Olestra, Aspertame and Vioxx.
So the first thing we need to do is start reading those labels as carefully as we read food ingredient labels. Unfortunately, unless you have a chemists' degree, deciphering multi syllabic ingredients could end up taking days of pain staking research. What follows is a simplified list of a few items that you should really try to avoid:
Parabens: These preservatives come in several forms (methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl and butyl) and have been found in breast cancer tumors — though the link to cancer has yet to be substantiated. Parabens are found in a slew of hygiene products: check your deodorant but also check your shampoos and cosmetics.
Aluminum and the aluminum family: Aluminum should be applied to the outside of your house and not the outside of your skin where it can be absorbed into the body. Aluminum has been connected to Alzheimer's disease on more than one occasion. But aluminum is a key ingredient in antiperspirant and may look like any of these on a label: aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly or any other aluminum compound.
Triclosan: Sounds like one of those wonder cleaning ingrediants they push on late night tv, but it’s really a chemical that is classified as a pesticide by the FDA. It’s thought to contain carcinogenic contaminants and is stored in body fat. Also look for triclosan in antibacterial soaps. (Stay away from antibacterial soaps and hand cleansers... use the alcohol based stuff instead... but that's a another story.)
Talc: This seemingly benign stuff has been around forever and we apply liberally to babies and the like. In and of itself, it's not bad but it's often contaminated with asbestos (which is carcinogenic). The lobby groups are at it again: the amount of asbestos in talc is unregulated, so you don’t know how much asbestos you’re in for when you buy products containing talc.
Propelyn glycol: As a “penetration enhancer,” propelyn glycol sounds as if it should be sold with Viagra, but it is actually believed to be a neurotoxin that may cause kidney or liver damage.