From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
How serious is the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s disease from using antiperspirants that contain aluminum?
—Susan DeBacker, Boulder, CO
Antiperspirants often contain aluminum, zirconium or both. These substances tighten or close underarm skin pores in order to block sweat glands and the moisture they produce. While underarm products often contain both antiperspirants and deodorants, deodorants alone do not contain aluminum.
Could exposure to aluminum increase your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease? According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, Alzheimer’s patients do at times have abnormally high concentrations of aluminum in their brains, but research hasn’t conclusively shown if the disease causes the buildup or the buildup causes the disease. Some doctors have suggested that antiperspirant might be especially problematic, as women apply it to shaved armpits, perhaps allowing aluminum to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream through hundreds of tiny cuts caused by razors. However, studies are inconclusive. “The research hasn’t shown anything further between the link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum,” says Jennifer Watson, outreach and promotions specialist at the Center.
Procter & Gamble, which makes antiperspirants with aluminum, points out that aluminum is Earth’s third most common element, and that humans are routinely exposed to it through numerous sources besides antiperspirants, including tainted water, canned foods, processed cheese, and buffered aspirin.
Those who wish to take precautionary measures can simply buy deodorants that do not contain antiperspirants. Some companies, such as Nature’s Gate, offer deodorants that contain all-natural ingredients and fight odor-causing bacteria.