5 Heavyweight Toxins in Your Pits
"Hey FDA, Your Apathy is Showing."
You've likely heard of the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They've been in the news a whole heap lately as they've issued emergency approvals for COVID vaccines. Those folks—the federal entity responsible for the regulation of food and drug in the U.S.
The cosmetics and personal care product industry also falls under FDA regulation. In this particular arena the FDA's regulating stinks—like a toxic slurry of impossible-to-pronounce chemicals. Currently, the FDA has banned the use of 11 chemicals deemed hazardous to health in this gigantic industry. In comparison, the European Union's corresponding list sits at 1,328. Hmm, is the FDA sleeping on the job, or what? Where's the safeguarding filter when it comes to these chemicals? Can we fire these guys?
The FDA is leaving massive room for manufacturers of daily-use products, such as deodorant, to use not-so-great to downright dangerous chemicals. And they don't even have to tell us about it (fully) on the label. Why does that matter? SO. MANY. REASONS. But let's zero in on the impact on our deodorant choices.
Big Implications of Bad Ingredients
Do a quick online search about aluminum antiperspirant deodorant's possible link to breast cancer and you'll end up with quite a cache. Peer-reviewed, scientific research on the correlation is growing but so far results are officially inconclusive.
Anecdotally, breast cancer patients are sharing stories of their oncologists telling them to stop using antiperspirant and deodorant following diagnosis. Cases exist where chemicals that are commonly in traditional deodorants are found in breast cancer tumors.
Again, more thorough research is needed for conclusive links, but these stories are compelling. The good news is that even if the FDA keeps hitting snooze, we can do research and chemical banning of our own. Yay, knowledge! Yay, empowerment!
Enter the EWG
A well-respected hub for information on chemicals and their possible hazards is the Environmental Working Group (EWG). While the EWG is broadly trusted as credible, we couldn't more strongly encourage you to personally vet sources for credibility. Look at multiple sources. Don't just take our word, or any one source's word, for it. That said, one big thing the EWG has going for it is they're rock stars at citing multiple sources for their information. Doctors, scientists, and scientific studies (often peer-reviewed) make up much of their cited sources.
Mining the EWG website and their Skin Deep Database is a huge help in personal investigating. Whether you love to "nerd out" and "info binge" or not, the database is a powerful tool! Below, you'll find a great starting place. A list of potential health hazards of five toxic ingredients in traditional deodorants. We think their toxin classifications are worthy of attention and avoidance. How about you?
5 Toxins That Might be Lurking in Your Deodorant
The toxic ingredients in deodorant below are listed in order from most to least hazardous according to each chemical's EWG toxicity score. You can search the Skin Deep Database by ingredient and see its list of concerns. The EWG also assigns separate gauges for three crucial concerns: Cancer, Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity, and Allergies and Immunotoxicity.
Parabens (the worst being Isobutylparaben, Propylparaben, and Ethylparaben)—According to an EWG article, “Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used as artificial preservatives in cosmetic and body care products since the 1920s. Since cosmetics contain ingredients that can biodegrade, these chemicals are added to prevent and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, increasing the shelf life of the product. The concern with these chemicals is that scientific studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer. They can also cause skin irritation. Moreover, studies have detected parabens in nearly all urine samples taken from adults in the U.S., regardless of demographic (Ye 2006)." The EWG also lists parabens as toxic chemicals to strictly avoid while pregnant.
Synthetic Fragrance (or Flavor)—This can be a toxic cocktail of 3,000 or more chemicals with all kinds of negative effects for human bodies. "Fragrance" can hold neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and can be carcinogenic. These wildcard mixes of chemicals can also cause contact dermatitis (itchy hives are no fun) and cause skin allergies for children. One of the largest concerns for this showing up on a label is that "Fragrance" or "Flavor" is all that has to be declared on the label. You deserve to know each and every one of the potentially thousands of chemicals in that fragrance that's going on and in your body! They sneak it by because it's proprietary information, but there has to be a way to let you know what's in it while also protecting a company's intellectual property rights. You can do better, FDA.
Triclosan—Classified as an irritant for skin, eyes, or lungs. Bioaccumulative in wildlife. Moderate endocrine disruptor. Classified as "expected to be toxic or harmful." Studies show it can weaken cardiac and skeletal muscle contractions. It may negatively affect immune function in people. Suspected to be an environmental toxin.
Aluminum—While this ingredient doesn't have a score all on its own in the Skin Deep Database (there are many compounds containing aluminum in the database) the EWG says, "Aluminum came under investigation as a possible carcinogen because it can damage DNA and prevent DNA repair, which are well-known mechanism of carcinogenesis (the formation of cancer)...A more recent study, incorporating both epidemiological data and aluminum measurements, showed that women who used antiperspirants and deodorants were at higher risk for breast cancer and had higher aluminum concentrations in their breasts. The study also found that women with breast cancer had higher levels of aluminum in their breasts than those without breast cancer, irrespective of antiperspirant use. That is, breast cancer may be linked to aluminum, but antiperspirant may not be the relevant or only route of exposure. Though compelling, this study does not prove that aluminum-based antiperspirants cause cancer but rather shows that the jury is still out.”
- EDTA (multiple forms)—This is a chemical compound that enhances the penetration of substances into the skin. It’s made from a few chemicals, one of them being...wait for it...formaldehyde. (Yep, embalming fluid.) EWG has it classified as "expected to be toxic and harmful" and an irritant. It’s also known to potentially come along with dangerous levels of dioxane, a by-product of EDTA’s manufacturing that is carcinogenic. It’s also not great for the environment. The more insidious side to EDTA is that it not only carries itself deeper into your skin, but all the other chemicals (and their health implications) accompanying it. The skin in your armpits is already thin and not much of a barrier for things like your lymph nodes. EDTA fast tracks deep chemical absorption in your tender pit skin and nearby tissues.
Dang, now that was an info binge! It illuminates why the creators of Pit Liquor deodorant are proudly obsessive about what is and is NOT on the ingredient list. You will never find any of those 5 ingredients in a bottle of Pit Liquor! Or any other toxic ingredients. Period.
Scrutinizing what's on the label of your deodorant can be intimidating at first. We hope the information here gives you a doable starting place. And that you now know we really mean it when we say, "we raise a glass to your good health."
If you have the stamina to hang a bit longer, here's a quick and helpful Glossary of Terms that may help you further digest the information above.
What the Blazes Does That Mean?
Allergies and Immunotoxicity (EWG's definition): "Ingredients linked to harm to the immune system, a class of health problems that manifest as allergic reactions or an impaired capacity to fight disease and repair damaged tissue in the body."
Bioaccumulation: Refers to the gradual accumulation of a chemical in a living organism. Put another way, it’s when a substance accumulates in a body faster than the body can dispose of it through its natural processes.
Carcinogen: In the cosmetics and personal care product industry, carcinogens are chemical ingredients that can promote carcinogenesis—the formation of cancer cells.
Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity (EWG's definition): "Ingredients linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, a broad class of health effects that range from infertility and reproductive organ cancers to birth defects and developmental delays in children."
Endocrine disruptors (drawn from this EWG article): "They [chemicals with this adverse affect] can increase and decrease production of certain hormones, imitate hormones, change one hormone into another, interfere with hormone signaling, tell cells to die prematurely, compete with essential nutrients, bind to essential hormones and accumulate in organs that produce hormones. These chemicals can be especially problematic during pregnancy."
Synthetic: Not natural and made by chemical synthesis in a lab. Synthetics are often meant to imitate a substance or chemical found in nature. (When is an imitation ever better than the original? Pit Liquor is on Team Nature!)
Toxin (or toxicant): A chemical, natural or synthetic, that causes harm to living organisms.
Laycie McClain lives nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Loveland, CO. It's a handy place to live for a Wyoming native who treasures mountain adventures, a good craft beer, and plenty of opportunities for enjoying the outdoors with her husband and daughter.