- 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
- 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''.