The levels of aluminum-based compounds and propylene glycol used in deodorants are not harmful and deemed safe for general use.
A post on a Facebook page named "Herbs, Health and Happiness" claims that deodorants might contain "dangerous ingredients that are known to cause cancer, brain damage, and liver abnormalities." The post provides an external link about making an all-natural deodorant. Further, the post includes an image of a roll-on deodorant bottle and a list of chemicals. The list includes aluminum, parabens, propylene glycol, phthalates, and triclosan.
However, this claim is not entirely true. The ingredients listed in the image may cause harm to the human body when exposed to levels deemed unsafe. Otherwise, they are not as harmful as claimed.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants, which help stop the flow of sweat to the skin's surface. Some research suggests that such underarm antiperspirants, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and have estrogen-like hormonal effects, which can promote the growth of breast cancer cells.
The NCI adds, "However, no studies to date have confirmed any substantial adverse effects of aluminum that could contribute to increased breast cancer risks. A 2014 review concluded there was no clear evidence showing that the use of aluminum-containing underarm antiperspirants or cosmetics increases the risk of breast cancer."
The Alzheimer's Society states that the human body can tolerate metals like zinc, copper, iron, lead, and aluminum in small amounts by filtering them out through the kidneys. In case they are not removed, due to organ failure or exposure to extremely high doses, these metals can deposit in the brain, and they are known to cause adverse effects in the brain. They have been implicated in several neurological conditions. It also states, "However, multiple other small and large scale studies have failed to find a convincing causal association between aluminum exposure in humans and Alzheimer's disease."
According to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), propylene glycol is generally considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in a wide range of products, including food and tobacco products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and other practical applications. Propylene glycol exposure occurs primarily through ingesting food and medications and skin contact with cosmetics or topical medications. Propylene glycol is used in various oral, injectable, and topical formulations in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The ATSDR adds, "No adverse health effects are likely to occur from normal use of these products. However, heavy use of injectable medications with propylene glycol has caused excessive levels of propylene glycol in the body… Prolonged and extensive topical application on compromised skin, such as burns, has also caused excess propylene glycol levels." Patients with underlying kidney disease, less effective or impaired alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme systems, epilepsy, or those who receive extensive dermal applications of propylene glycol are at risk of propylene glycol toxicity.
Logically has previously debunked a claim about parabens found in cosmetics causing most cancer cases. There are various combinations of chemicals in cosmetics, and it isn't easy to show a definite cause and effect of a specific chemical. Health regulating organizations, such as the FDA and Breast Cancer U.K., have suggested that reports showing parabens can cause cancer are limited, and further studies are needed. No substantial evidence shows a direct link between the use of cosmetics and cancer.
According to the FDA, triclosan is a chemical ingredient with antibacterial properties, not a pesticide. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that triclosan has been used as a microbial pesticide since the late 1960s but does not say it may have carcinogenic effects, as the post claims. A 2015 Citizen Petition requested the EPA cancel registered pesticide products containing triclosan and assess risks under various safety acts. However, based on information available at the time, the EPA did not do so and stated it would evaluate and conduct a biological assessment of the potential effects of triclosan on listed species under its review. According to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control's (CDC) National Biomonitoring Program, triclosan is not considered carcinogenic. In 2016, the FDA ruled companies could no longer sell consumer products containing triclosan, such as antibacterial soaps, not because they were harmful but because those products had not been proven to be any more effective than plain soap and water. The Cleveland Clinic states that over 80 percent of triclosan usage is in personal care products, household cleaning products, cosmetics, deodorants, and body sprays. These products include items regulated by the FDA and contain between 0.1 and 0.3 percent triclosan.
Scientists are still studying the health effects of triclosan, and ongoing studies regarding its safety have not been concluded. The Cleveland Clinic adds, "Studies regarding the role of triclosan in cancer go both ways. Some studies suggest that long-term exposure to the chemical increases your risk of certain cancers. But other studies have shown it has the potential to be used as a treatment for cancer, particularly prostate cancer…In addition, researchers don't fully know the effects of long-term exposure to the chemical."
According to the CDC, phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable. They are used in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, lubricating oils, and personal-care products like soaps, shampoos, and hair sprays. Exposure to phthalates happens by eating and drinking foods that have been in contact with products containing phthalates and from breathing phthalate particles in the air. It adds, "Finding a detectable amount of phthalate metabolites in urine does not mean the levels will cause harmful health effects."
This claim includes some facts about the risks of high-level exposure to chemicals like aluminum and propylene glycol. However, their composition levels in personal hygiene products like deodorants align with guidelines set by health authorities from around the world. Implying that such products cause serious harm without providing details of levels of exposure can be inaccurate. Therefore, we have marked this claim as misleading.