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Adefolake Adeola: The Effect of Antiperspirants & Deodorant Sprays on the Environment

Adefolake Adekola

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It was my first day of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camp and all my senses were getting used to this foreign environment.

I heard my friend calling my name. “I’ve been calling you,” she said.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t hear you,” I replied.

And what did she have to say? “Why are you using this antiperspirant, don’t you know it causes cancer?”

That was how I stopped using antiperspirants and I switched to a deodorant without researching. Until now.

As defined by Vanessa Ngan (2005), an antiperspirant is a chemical agent that blocks the sweat pores to prevent perspiration or sweating. What is sweat? Sweat is a dilute salt solution produced by eccrine sweat glands in response to exercise, heat or stressful events.

Antiperspirants are composed of metallic salts aluminum chloride, parabens, aluminum chlorohydrate and so much more. They are not deodorants. Deodorants do not reduce or prevent sweating like antiperspirants, they only aim to mask the smell produced by sweat-eating bacteria. There are different types of antiperspirants; some are of a higher concentration than the others and this also means potential side effects. Eccrine sweat is initially odourless, but will smell if bacteria get a chance to break down the stale sweat.

When a hair follicle is blocked over a long period of time, it can develop into a cyst and later become a lump.  The popular myth is that antiperspirants cause cancer when in fact there is no concrete evidence that it is carcinogenic. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are some claims of a relationship between antiperspirants and breast cancer but researchers have found no link between the two.

However, some other researchers believe that the aluminum in antiperspirants can be absorbed by the skin and may increase the risk of breast cancer. A fact is the World Health Organization (WHO) has linked the use of deodorants to Alzheimer disease due to the abnormal accumulation of aluminum in the human brain. Although the health effects of antiperspirants are inconclusive, it’s known to have serious effects on the environment and will ultimately affect the standard of living.

The Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) present in aerosols have been phased out and replaced by liquid propellants such as propane or butane. These do not pose a threat to the ozone layer but have a high volume of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone that is a major component of smog (air pollution by a mixture of smoke and fog).

Aluminum causes severe damage to the ecosystem and aquatic life. Formaldehyde, which is another key component in the production of antiperspirants and deodorants, is also a threat to the environment and human health.

Mineral oils used in both are harmful to the environment and cause air pollution. The depletion of the ozone layer is also due to the use of these products. Triclosan poses a risk to waterways when it washes off the body. It accumulates and affects the waterbodies in streams and rivers. Most importantly, some of the cans of the products are non-recyclable neither are they refillable. These packages end up in the ocean where they cause soil and water pollution.

Do’s and Dont’s

1. Avoid applying antiperspirants to the mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyelids, anus and genitals).

2. Go natural. Use plant oils and extracts such coconut oil etc.

3. Research on the product you are using and ensure your health is not at risk. Read reviews online.

a Qualified Health, Safety, Social and Environment Officer with a credible talent of providing detailed audit reports required for preventive and corrective measure to ensure health safety social and environment. Adefolake is a confident and vibrant professional credited with exceptional interpersonal skills at ensuring designed operational policies and requirements are implemented by appropriate personnel or mechanisms in all project work. She is an effective communicator acknowledged for enhancing better knowledge acquisition performance and better work delivery using experience gained from specialization in environmental assessment and management. She has her website where she talks about everything and anything adefolakeadekola.com

9 Comments

  1. The Real Oma

    July 27, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    I don’t use either of them, because I don’t think they are good for me. In fact, for most of my adult life I used nothing, I showered as soon as I finished a sweaty activity and I shower twice every day. These days I apply coconut oil to my underarms very morning and I think I smell just fine. My bf has told me I smell good on two occasions after I had just returned from work?.
    I think our bodies can get dependent aniperspirants and deodorants, so if you decide to quit, know you gonna stink for days to weeks before your body gets rid of the chemicals and gets back to normal.

  2. Ni bo?!

    July 27, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    Majority of Nigerians need some kind of anti perspirant or deodorant because body odour is on an epidemic level in that country. Because you bath does not mean you wont eventually stink after some activity. Many think they dont stink but they do. Enter buat, planet, cant or party full of Nigerians and you will feel an assault on your sense of smell. Pls do not encourage Non use, or people will start fainting from the smell.

  3. Ni bo?!

    July 27, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    *bus, plane, car or party (useless auto)

  4. Lola

    July 27, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Please tell the guyz ihh most of them can smelll for federal ahhhhhhhhhhhh

  5. Leila

    July 28, 2018 at 3:17 am

    Eerm, i thought CFCs are no longer used in sprays? Their use has been banned for a while. Is your information up to date?

    • Adefolake Adekola

      Adefolake Adekola

      July 28, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Read the article well…it says it’s been faced out. Liquid propellants are used now.

    • Uberhaute Looks

      July 28, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      I thought deodorant is the evil not anti perspirant?

  6. Muse

    July 28, 2018 at 11:00 am

    In her article, she clearly stated that the use of CFCs have been phased out.

  7. Ajala & Foodie

    July 30, 2018 at 5:57 am

    If you think you don’t stink without antiperspirant, you live in self denial and deceit. Until better natural ones are made. I will have to trust God on the whole environmental issue or choose to believe the second coming will take place before we all have to worry about that.

    Even non Nigerians i.e people that reside in areas with average lower temps that are attempting to go the natural route have confessed they are told they stink. Interestingly, I was listening to a radio station last week and the hosts were talking about things people do that are annoying to their co workers. One of the hosts (male) told his co host (female), that for him it is her use of natural product deodorants because the entire studio stinks when she is in there. Glad they could laugh about it because I would not be laughing at all.

    Until better smelling options (natural) are provided, I choose not stinking for now.

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