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Barbara Panvel gets a whiff of something nasty from her deodorant.

As Christmas and New Year parties loom, remember the danger of using sprays in a badly ventilated room. In December last year a healthy twelve-year-old boy collapsed after spraying himself with Lynx Vice deodorant. He was taken to hospital, but died of heart failure five days later - the solvents in the deodorant had caused an abnormal heartbeat.

Another long-term hazard has been worrying scientists for years.

In the Sunday Times Bethan Cole wrote about research suggesting a link between antiperspirants and breast cancer. She explained that aluminium and zirconium-based antiperspirant deodorants work by blocking the perspiration process which stops the lymph glands from absorbing and expelling proteins, dead cells, bacteria and other waste products from the body.  Several researchers suspect that this leads to cancerous growths.

Dr Philippa Darbre [biochemistry, Reading] writes that the incidence of breast cancer is going up and has found that aluminium, found in anti-perspirants, can bind to the DNA.

Dr John Sumpter [Brunel] has published research showing that parabens, a common preservative added to deodorant, was "firing mutated cells in the breast. We don't know if it actually causes mutant cells yet but it encourages them".

Dr. Kris McGrath, an American immunologist, undertook this research after his mother and wife died of breast cancer. [McGrath K G, An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, vol 12; pg 479, 2004].

There is little public awareness of the problem because, unless inhaled, these products do no obvious immediate harm; they have a low-dose, long-term, cumulative effect. Dr McGrath realises that banning these products might take many years and compares it with the long struggle to establish the link between tobacco and cancer.

Bethan advises that we junk antiperspirants, get used to sweating, and find alternatives: she recommends Tawas Crystal Deodorant, which is totally scentless and has been used in Asia for centuries, Alvin Connor's Balance deodorant, which is unscented and aluminium-free and Wella Sage Deodorant, a blend of sage, tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils.

Solihull's Body Shop adviser recommends their Aloe Vera product.

Those on a low budget can turn to surgical spirit.



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