The truth about alum and aluminium
Many people get confused about alum because the press talks about aluminium being bad for us. Aluminium is the third most abundant element on the planet and we ingest it in large proportions every day in water and food. In fact, in some parts, its presence in water is the only thing that allows it to be drunk without harm. It is not particularly good for living organisms in the body so over eons we have evolved a particularly efficient and effective system for allowing naturally occurring Aluminum and its salt derivatives to pass through the body without effect.
However, it is specific types of manmade synthetic aluminium that have the health scares associated with them. Aluminium Chlorohydrate is a synthetic ingredient of antiperspirants/deodorants, designed to be absorbed into and to block the pores under the arms, to prevent perspiration. There have been some claims that there may be a connection between Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer and Aluminium Chlorohydrate.
How aluminium chlorohydrate works
It is thought to work when aluminium ions are taken into the cells that line the eccrine-gland ducts at the opening of the epidermis in the top layer of the skin. As aluminium ions are drawn into the cells, there is water that passes in with them and causes the cells to swell and squeeze the ducts closed so that sweat cannot get out. There is a limit to the amount of water that each cell can accept and the cells reach a balance. Sweating stops until slowly the water escapes and the cellular swelling decreases and then the sweating process will resume. The process is dependent on the number of aluminium ions applied. The supposition that Aluminium Chlorhydrate blocks the pores is substantiated in the Merck Manual online “Aluminum chloride hexahydrate in a 6 to 20% solution in absolute ethyl alcohol is indicated for topical treatment of axillary, palmar, and plantar sweating; these preparations require a prescription. The solution blocks sweat ducts and is most effective when applied nightly and covered tightly with a thin polyvinylidene or polyethylene film; it should be washed off in the morning.” Reiber et al. 1995 also suggest that Aluminium chlorhydrate salt is thought to form an obstructive plug of aluminium hydroxide within the sweat duct. The possibility that aluminium in antiperspirants can be absorbed through the skin has been suggested (Graves et al. 1990), but this hypothesis has not been clinically confirmed.Studies on Breast cancer and Antiperspirants/deodorants - taken from the National Cancer Institute website at www.cancer.gov
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