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Thursday
Jan212010

Aluminum in Crystal Deodorant Stones

"Aluminum-Free" is probably the most visible phrase you'll see while walking down the natural deodorant aisle. And some of the most popular natural deodorants in that aisle are the "crystal" deodorant stones and sprays. But most people don't know that these crystal deodorant products do contain aluminum!

The crystal deodorant stones are made from alum. While there are different types of alums, the most widely used form of alum used in the personal care industry is potassium alum (aka, potash alum). The full chemical name of potassium alum is potassium aluminum sulfate.

The most common way to create potassium aluminum sulfate is through a process called hydrometallurgy. In this process, sulfuric acid is combined with bauxite ore (which is, by the way, not produced at all in the US). The reaction between the sulfuric acid and the ore creates aluminum oxide. This is then reacted with potassium sulfate to form potassium aluminunum sulfate.

While potash alum does naturally ocurr in mineral deposits such as alunite and kalinite, the deodorant stones are manufactured in this less-than-environmentally-friendly way, shipping ore from overseas and using toxic chemicals like sulfuric acid. The stone manufacturers claim that alum is a mineral salt, "similar to that found naturally in the earth's crust." Radioactive uranium is also found naturally in the earth's crust--but that doesn't mean you'd want to use it as a deodorant.

So, is the deodorant stone really a problem?

The reason that most people try to avoid aluminum in deodorant is because of its possible link to Alzheimer's disease. While experts have not come to a consensus that aluminum causes Alzheimer's, there is some strong evidence of a link. For instance, in 1988 a truck driver accidentally dumped 20 tons of aluminum sulfate in to a town's drinking water. Now, over 20 years later, they are finding a higher incidence of Alzheimers in the people of this town that were exposed to the aluminum in the drinking water. Many people point to the fact that aluminum is found in high concentration in brain matter affected by the disease. But while there is plenty of strong circumstantial evidence, researchers are still trying to find out if and how aluminum compounds work within the brain to create the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer's. Because not everyone exposed to aluminum develops Alzheimer's, many experts believe that some people who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer's are particularly suseptible to aluminums. That it acts as a catalyst in the process that creates plaque in the brain. As a precautionary measure, many doctors such as popular web guru and natural health expert Dr. Mercola suggest avoiding aluminum as much as possible.

The common aluminum compounds in anti-perspirants have another risk. Chemicals like aluminum chlorohydrate are estrogen mimickers that can throw off the body's delicate hormonal balance. While no evidence suggests that alum carries this particular risk, it is a form of aluminum and would carry the same possible link to Alzheimer's. The toxicity of potassium alum is also quite high. There have been cases of people who have died from ingesting only 30 grams of alum...that's only one ounce of product. To give you an idea, an average deodorant stone is about 4 ounces---so if a larger chip off a deodorant stone were to break off and be ingested, it could be lethal (especially to a child).

The bottom line is, that while using a deodorant stone is probably better than using a conventional anti-perspirant, it's not aluminum-free and it still poses a possible Alzheimer's risk and contributes to background toxicy in the body.

Reader Comments (24)

I've read that while many aluminum molecules can be absorbed by the skin, the alum molecules used in deodorant stones are too large to be absorbed. Could you please explain how this poses any risk? It seems far different than aluminum in drinking water. Thanks.

Sat, January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKS

Alum does get absorbed in to the skin. In fact, this study found that a vaccine combined with alum and applied to the skin was just as effective as injecting the vaccine. Alum works by shrinking the skin--in order for it to have an effect, it would have to be absorbed in some way in to the skin's cells. The companies claiming that the aluminum is not absorbed have not proven this assertation with any backup data or studies.

Sat, January 23, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thank you.

Sat, January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKS

I'm a little confused. My aunt had breast cancer and won't use antiperspirants bc of what I think you are saying is estrogen mimickers, right? Her doc suggested deodorant no anti but was not a crystal. Would that also limit risk w estrogen mimickers thus cancers and then also eliminate risk from alzeheimer ta"Chemicals like aluminum chlorohydrate are estrogen mimickers that can throw off the body's delicate hormonal balance. While no evidence suggests that alum carries this particular risk, it is a form of aluminum and would carry the same possible link to Alzheimer's." love these articles! Thanks so much.

Fri, February 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Yep--so many of the anti-perspirants contain estrogen mimickers that can possibly lead to breast cancer. So, by avoiding the anti-perspirants you're avoiding the estrogen mimickers and the possible risk of Alzheimer's. By avoiding the crystal, you're also avoiding the particular risks that aluminum may play in the development of Alzheimer's. Does that make sense?

Fri, February 12, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Yes...Just wanted to let u know I had checked back in while ago...

Sun, February 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

So what can I use instead?

Fri, March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKitty

I recommend certified organic alternatives. Of course, there's our own: at www.bubbleandbee.com

Other brands would be:
Nourish http://www.sensibilitysoaps.com/html/nourish.html
Terressentials http://www.terressentials.com

Mon, March 15, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

"in 1988 a truck driver accidently dumped 20 tons of aluminum sulfate into a town's drinking water"

Really? Where and when? This sounds like an urban myth to me. If it really happened it must have been out of the US because I find no mention of it in EPA records.

Sat, March 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Edwards

Nope--not an urban myth. It happened in the UK:
http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060417/full/news060417-10.html

Sun, March 28, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

The "Crystal" brand uses ammonium alum which is the synthetic processed form of the rock as you described. Other brands use potassium alum which according to Wikipedia is naturally occurring. It seems that there is a difference between potassium alum and ammonium alum; could you please expound on that. I would also like to add that even if potassium alum is naturally occurring women with breast feeding babies should be advised not to use those deodorants because of close proximity to the breast. The baby could easily ingest aluminum!!! Thank you for sounding the alarm on this whole issue.

Mon, April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Whether or not potassium alum is naturally ocurring, it's still aluminum and still is toxic. The differences between potassium alum and aluminum alum are minimal. And even though potassium alum occurs naturally in caves and in the ground, they're using synthetically created potassium alum in their deodorants (not that it makes much of a difference, naturally-ocurring alum is just as toxic).

Mon, April 12, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Do you even know anything about science stephanie? http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/94/20/1578

Please refer to this link where an oxford study found NO link between antiperspirant and breast cancer. Also you can't sweat out toxins and you only lose 1% of sweat through your underarms. Good day.

Wed, June 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoebagadoughnuts

Rude comment, Joe. Apparently you know less about science than you think. Multiple studies often produce differing results. It would seem wise to be prudent in one's choice of products.

"The National Cancer Institute points out that studies investigating the relationship between antiperspirants and deodorants and breast cancer have yielded conflicting results. At least one study, from 2003, found that the age of breast cancer diagnosis was significantly earlier in women who used antiperspirants/deodorants and who shaved their underarms more often.

Research suggests that aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like effects. Since estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells, it is plausible, according to some scientists, that aluminum in antiperspirants contributes to breast cancer development."

Fri, July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Well said, George!

Mon, July 5, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I have used to work for an advertising team that promoted their "paraben free" deodarant but kept it shush about the fact that the deodarant contained Aluminum. I would suggest that for people at risk - such as those at a risk of breast cancer or mothers breast feeding then keep away from all deodarants. Using soap and water never did me any harm!

Amy - Old mothers like myself have long known the benefits of breast feeding and finally science is catching on. I am sure that the benefits are not just disease immunity - i know of other mothers who have phsychologically benefited from the act of breast feeding. I know not all mothers are able but i think all that can should at least give it a try - nothing in the world beats it.

Amy - Medela Review

Fri, September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

i am not really aware of these things not until i read your article. now i wonder if those pans, pots that are use for cooking and made of aluminum are also risky for our health? if so, i think its time for me to remind my friends and relatives with regards to use of products made of aluminum or with aluminum on it...
good thing that i don't actually use those deos...

Wed, November 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterarmil@trucking jobs

Aluminum is metal which can be one of the reasons for Breast cancer,which is the most common diseses in Females.

Why in the heck are you trying to promote an aluminum-containing anti-perspirant product by posting on a blog talking about the dangers of aluminum?! Do you think that people are just not going to read the ingredients?

Klima ingredients: Ethyl Alcohol, Aqua (water), Aluminum Chloride, Aluminum Chlorohydrate, Glycerin, Alcloxa, Dimethicone, Propylene Glycol, Triethyl Citrate,

Wed, July 20, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

i have to take one ayurvedic medicine and in that mendicine one compound is potash alum but roasted. i just want to know that how much harmful medicine is as used by me a lactating mother of one and half year old boy? is it good to take or not ?

Mon, September 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpoonam

Hm, interesting. Roasted or not, it would be the same compound. If it were me, I would want to reduce the amount of aluminum that I was exposing my body and my child's body. However, with any medicine, you have to weigh the benefits vs. the risks. Is this drug going to prevent a serious complication with the pregnancy? Or is it something less vital?I would take your question to the person that was prescribing the medicine and see what they say, as they know your case much better than I.

Mon, September 10, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I am taking note of the information regarding aluminium and have made changes to my lifestyle.
As an alternative to using deodorant I am using a very diluted ascorbic acid solution to raise my skins acidity - works nicely .
We only use stainless steel cookware, however, I have also switched to coconut oil to avoid possible Alzheimer damage in the future.

Fri, January 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbbalanced

I am a little late getting into this conversation about the Aluminum in Crystal Deodorant Stones. The label says it contains ammonium alum. Another internet site says that molecule is too big to penetrate the skin. Is that correct? Also is ammonium alum the same as potassium aluminum sulfate? I believe your article implies that it is? Does ammonium alum have the risks of potassium aluminum sulfate?

Thanks for clearing up my confusion.

Tue, August 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Caviness

I had been using Thai crystal deodorant mist for some time, and was not aware of the pot. alum, meaning aluminum. I read all the labels so that I don't buy chemical products, but I certainly missed that. Thank you. Since this topic is raped up with cancer producing effects, I want to mention another chemical that is very widely used in deodorants as well as multi others, and that is sodium benzoate, or benzoic acid, which is also cancer producing. I can remember reading a front page article in a NY newspaper in the 1960's that said benzoate was growing cancer on experimental rats. Yet it is still used. Reading labels is so important for your health.

Thu, June 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterWhitelight

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