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Deodorants May Cause Cancer
And Other Serious Health Problems
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AHMEDABAD -The next time you lift your hand for your favourite deodorant or anti-perspirant to get rid of that embarrassing odour in the summer, think twice -- for some of these may cause serious health problems, including cancer, a latest study has pointed out.
 
According to the study, published in the latest issue of 'Insight', an in-house magazine of the Consumer Education and Research Society (CERS), Ahmedabad, some of these fads may cause diseases of the skin, eyes, liver, Alzeimer's Disease and even cancer. Besides, these chemical-based products discolour clothes and weaken the textile's fibre, especially of cotton and linen.
 
It recommends that the easiest way to get rid of excessive sweating and bad odour on a hot day is to take frequent baths and wipe your armpits with wet cloth or tissue as many times as possible. If at all needed, use deodorants or anti-perspirants only once or twice a day but never at all at night or in winters.
 
How important a role do these products actually play in your life? An adult normally has about two million sweat glands which keep the body cool by producing sweat due to metabolism or working muscles.
 
The temperature-sensitive eccrine glands help regulate body temperature by adjusting the amount of sweat, keep the skin moist leading to perspiration problem.
 
The apocrine sweat glands, controlled by the body's hormone system, are activated by emotional stress.
 
Body odour is caused by bacteria breaking down apocrine sweat on the skin which causes odour and due to its ammonia and other organic contents, turns clothing yellow.
 
Similarly, the non-water component of eccrine sweat, sodium chloride, causes the body odour, says the study. Anti-perspirants are expected to reduce perspiration and body wetness, deodorants are supposed to remove body odour. Perfumes, on the other hand, are a totally different product which merely help mask the body odour, not remove it.
 
While deodorants are based on chemicals meant to kill odour-producing bacteria, anti-perspirants are based on astringent salts which retard the flow of eccrine sweat. However, a regular use may induce several health problems.
 
In the case of anti-perspirants, says the study, compounds of aluminium, zinc and zirconium, which are the astringent salts supposed to reduce perspiration, cause side-effects like skin irritation, inflammation and rashes and are harsh on clothes.
 
In particular, compounds of zinc, zirconium and zirconyl may prove to be toxic to lungs and other organs and carcinogenic if inhaled, besides causing underarm granulomas. In the case of deodorants, the anti-bacterial agent triclosan may cause liver damage.
 
Products claiming to be two-in-one, that is antiperspirant-cum-deodorant, have ingredients which are used as propellants in aerosol sprays but can cause cardiac arrhythmia if inhaled in high concentration.
 
The study pointed out that the history of anti-perspirants and deodorants is, in large part, a progression of chemicals that have been introduced and then banned. A review of the active ingredients that have been marketed and then withdrawn shows that chemicals that are both safe and effective are hard to come by.
 
The most common health problem is skin irritation caused by the astringent salts and, in more serious cases, it can develop intocontact dermatitis. Citing a young college-going girl's example, it said the skin turns red and develop an itchy or painful rash.
 
Prolonged use of anti-perspirants may also cause underarm granulomas and small nodules of chronically-inflammed tissues.
 
Aerosols carry a risk of being accidentally sprayed into the eyemuch more easily than other forms of antiperspirants. Althoughpermanent damage rarely occurs, the anti-perspirant can cause temporary loss of vision, conjunctivitis and other discomforts, the study points out.
 
Most of the anti-perspirants, not based on an aluminium salt, contain either zirconium or zinc compounds as the main active ingredients. Of these, zirconium can be carcinogenic, if inhaled, and cause cancer.
 
The study said, according to the American Cancer Society, anti-perspirants are more harmful than deodorants, the reason being that the former, by preventing perspiration, stop the body from purging toxins from under the armpits. The toxins, therefore, continue to be deposited in the lymph nodes under the arms.
 
A high concentration of toxins in the area causes cell damage andhence cancer. Nearly all breast cancer tumours occur in the upper outside quadrant of the breast area where the lymph nodes arelocated, the study added.
 
Not only this. To be classified as an anti-perspirant, the product must contain aluminium. But elevated aluminium levels have been found in the brains of patients suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.
 
The latest ingredient which might be a health threat, according to the study, is triclosan. Although initial testing of triclosan indicated very low oral toxicity, subsequent animal testing has shown that triclosan can cause liver damage through percutaneous absorption.
 
And the clothes one so proudly wears before or after spraying thedeo or the anti-perspirant, are also not free of the side-effects. For, all the aluminium salts used in anti-perspirants are very acidic when mixed with perspiration.
 
They can irritate the skin, cause discoloration of clothing and weaken the textile fibres of the clothes you love so much. The clothes are then more likely to tear. Cotton and linen, used more during the summer, are particularly vulnerable to damage from aluminium salts, the study added.
 
 
The study says some myths, half-truths and confusion about deodorants and anti-perspirants prevail because of ''slanted advertising and inadequate product labelling''.


 

 
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