Is Potassium Alum in Deodorant Safe?
For some time now, I have been researching natural deodorants, what works and what doesn't. I would like to have a natural alternative. Not an antiperspirant that stops the body from sweating (we all need to sweat to remove toxins). An antiperspirant is not a good idea in my educated opinion.
This deodorant was recommended by a friend. It is less than $9 on Amazon and is supposed to last a year. Well, I got it just before Christmas and it doesn't even look like I have used any of it. The best part is, it keeps me from smelling ALL day. Something that other deodorants or anti-antiperspirants have not been able to do. Nothing works for me, not even prescription options full of chemicals.
It's very easy to use, just run it under water to get the salt wet and apply to underarms. One thing I was told, it MUST be applied to dry, clean armpits. If you have been sweating during the day and re-apply, you run the risk of your deodorant picking up the body odor smell. Future applications will make you smell like stinky armpits. It may be best to have something like this and a spray for reapplication should that be needed.
Two spray options that have been recommended by friends.
This "crystal" deodorant I have been using has 1 ingredient, Potassium Alum. Potassium Alum is very controversial because it contains aluminum. Aluminum is said to cause cancer, heavy metal poisoning and a lot of other issues. Since you are applying this to your armpits, very close to your breasts, breast cancer is a huge concern. I have been researching for months, looking for any peer reviewed, double blind study that proves in fact potassium alum can cause cancer. I have NOT been able to find anything concrete, only opinion. If you have access to something, please share it with me. I would love to see it, read it and study it. I want to use products that are safe for myself and my family. It's important to find the truth, whatever that may be. You may send me an email at Melissa@sweetwillowspirit.com, I am happy to review any and all articles or studies showing that there may indeed be an issue with potassium alum. Thank you.
"Potassium alum is a naturally occurring chemical compound. This compound occurs when certain minerals (sulphide and potassium-bearing ones) come into contact with oxygen molecules. When this happens, potassium alum appears as encrustations on the minerals. These encrustations of potassium alum can be found all over the planet, but predominately in Europe, North and South America (see this post for a map of potassium alum hotspots). Potassium alum can also be described as an aluminum salt."(1)
I did a small interview with a chemist, his name is Mike Wangsness. This is what he said on the subject.
Q: Potassium alum... naturally occurring aluminum. How does this differ from aluminum found in commercial deodorants and antiperspirants in the body? Aluminum can cause cancer and issues, potassium alum is in natural "safe" deodorants, but is it really, indeed safe? Different molecular structure, different everything but it is still potentially toxic since its naturally occurring?
A - Mike: "The reality is that there is no difference between the aluminum itself in potassium alum and standard deodorants. However, they are in different chemicals. Aluminum on its own does not cause cancer. If it did, we would all be in trouble, as it is the most abundant metal within the earth (over 8%). Within potassium alum, there is an equal amount of aluminum atoms and potassium atoms, in addition to the sulfate groups in the molecule. The aluminum in standard deodorants is typically contained in Aluminum Chlorhydrate, which contains chlorine and hydroxide groups. It’s not the toxicity of the element itself that we should worry about, but the chemical compound. A simple example: table salt vs hydrochloric acid (aka muriatic acid)...pure table salt is “safe”, where pure hydrochloric acid will cause severe chemical burns. And chlorine on its own is typically a hazardous gas. The best thing to do is to look up the toxicity of the chemical on its MSDS (material safety data sheet). They are detailed about all kinds of information about the specific chemical. In order to understand them, there is a bit of scientific knowledge needed for them, however. They talk about the pure chemical in scientific terms."
Q: I was also told that the molecules are larger so the body has a harder time absorbing it? True?
A - Mike "The size of the molecules can have a bearing on it, but that is not necessarily always the case. A molecular biologist may be able to answer that question, as for how some compounds may cross the skin barrier and be absorbed into the system. I wouldn’t recommend ingesting it. There would likely be other issues that would cause."
Q: So in your educated opinion, is this safe for the body over time?
A - Mike "I have honestly not seen a solid study that states there is a link between deodorant and cancer. I did a quick search and saw that the national cancer institute said that “standard” deodorants are not carcinogenic. The mechanism of an antiperspirant/deodorant combo is that it plugs the pores in the underarm. Because of my background, I need to see reputable scientific studies citing multiple, peer reviewed sources. That’s the key for me. I am big on hard evidence one way or the other. And yes...antibacterial items are a big issue and have hand a hand in helping create “superbugs”. But, they are a necessity at times, just not in the volume in which they have been in fashion to use."
Q: How much aluminum is actually in potassium alum?
A: Mike - "it all depends on your “dose”. It’s 5.7%, by weight aluminum, for the dodecahydrate (12 water molecules bound to one molecule of potassium aluminum sulfate (potassium alum). Because of how my mind works, I want to point out something. If we are to believe that aluminum is as bad as some sources are telling us it is (obviously having too much of something...an example is the guy who turned blue from taking too much colloidal silver...is bad), then we would be seeing more and more studies pushing for the complete elimination of all aluminum cans. Pop is typically acidic, potentially very acidic, and would theoretically be able to leach some of it into the solution that you are ingesting. Even “organic” companies are using aluminum cans. I want to add caution about something related here, too, because I used the term. And it’s just some food for thought, and I’m not telling anyone to avoid it. When the term “organic” is used, it simply means the source of the pesticides used. Organically derived pesticides can be even more acutely toxic than mass produced pesticides. Organic means derived from a natural source, and not formulated in a Lab. It doesn’t mean that it’s safer or less toxic."
Well, did you understand that conversation? lol Potassium alum really is one substance where this person says it is safe, while that person doesn't.
According to ASTDR (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry) on Aluminum, "When a substance is released either from a large area, such as an industrial plant, or from a container, such as a drum or bottle, it enters the environment. Such a release does not always lead to exposure. You can be exposed to a substance only when you come in contact with it. You may be exposed by breathing, eating, or drinking the substance, or by skin contact. However, it should be noted that aluminum is a very abundant and widely distributed element and will be found in most rocks, soils, waters, air, and foods. You will always have some exposure to low levels of aluminum from eating food, drinking water, and breathing air....... An average American adult eats about 7-9 mg of aluminum every day through their food." Now they are talking about straight aluminum, potassium alum as we know is not the same.
Naturally occurring Aluminum can be found in all kind of foods. On the Livestrong.com website, I found this, "Beef, poultry, ham, eggs and fresh fruits have 1 milligram or less of aluminum per kilogram of food, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The aluminum in different types of fish ranges between 0.1 and 6 milligrams per kilogram. Most fresh vegetables contain 1 to 4 milligrams per kilogram, except for spinach, which has five times more. Tea leaves are one of the rare plants with a very high aluminum content, but not all of it leeches into the water when you prepare a cup of tea. You may get as much as 3.6 milligrams of aluminum per liter of steeped tea. This is about the same amount as fruit juice, but it’s four times higher than coffee and other beverages."
A friend pointed out "I don't know that it is a fact but I am pretty sure that it (potassium alum deodorant) is much safer than eating food cooked on an aluminum surface which is common everywhere. Unfortunately, things that kill bacteria are generally not really good for any living organism, including most soaps and antiseptics.
On EWG.org, they rated potassium alum as a "low" overall hazard for health concerns, with it suspected not to be bio-accumulative. So this substance should not accumulate in the body.
Also, don't forget that many of the foods we eat contain naturally occurring aluminum. In an article from The Meadow.com titled Minerals in Himalayan Pink Salt: Spectral Analysis, you will see that this salt contains aluminum as well. "Below is a spectral analysis of Himalayan pink salt as it is typically found. The list shows all the trace minerals, electrolytes, and elements contained in Himalayan salt. Himalayan pink rock salt is popular among health food advocates who seek it for the nutritional value of its fairly abundant trace minerals."
On the Pubchem.com website, in an article titled Compound Summary for Potassium Alum, I found this statement, "Potassium alum is considered by the FDA as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance. It is an inorganic salt, also called potassium aluminum sulfate with a formula of AlK(SO4)2 that is predominantly produced in the dodecahydrate form (AlK(SO4)2 * 12H2O). Potassium alum is formed by large, transparent crystals that are used in different products like food or drugs as a buffer, neutralizing or forming agent."
Upon further searching, I found another article on Pubmed.com, titled, A preliminary study of the dermal absorption of aluminium from antiperspirants using aluminium-26, "Results indicate that only 0.012% of the applied aluminium was absorbed through the skin. At this rate, about 4 microg of aluminium is absorbed from a single use of ACH (aluminum clorohydrate) on both underarms. This is about 2.5% of the aluminium typically absorbed by the gut from food over the same time period. Therefore, a one-time use of ACH applied to the skin is not a significant contribution to the body burden of aluminium."
Are you feeling a little over-whelmed yet, or is your head spinning?! Mine sure was when researching this!
The choice is yours! Do you feel comfortable using potassium alum in your deodorant? I don't see a problem with it right now until someone shows me evidence of soemthing different. I really like how it works! Good luck and send any questions you may have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITED TO ADD: Winter seems to be a better time of year for me to use this deodorant. I still really like it but when I am super busy in the summer I do seem to smell at the end of the day. So I have switched to using this and Schmidt's magnisium/charcoal. I rotate.
Love and light!
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Lise, Lisa, Potassium Alum Aluminum of Not, http://www.lisaliseblog.com/2015/07/potassium-alum-aluminium-or-not.html blog