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Just How Much Aluminum Do We Absorb From Antiperspirants?

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Consumers can take up aluminum compounds from various sources, including antiperspirants containing aluminum. As stated in the BfR Opinion of 2019 (045/2019) on aluminum intake, the total burden resulting from all sources of exposure is too high in some population groups. This finding is not affected by the current reassessment of the contribution of aluminum chlorohydrate in antiperspirants, a product group that is used daily. Their contribution to the total aluminum burden is significantly lower than previously assumed. This is the result of the current risk assessment by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel said: “Significantly less aluminum is absorbed through skin than previously calculated on the basis of the limited data available at the time.” BfR assessed absorption via the skin, i.e. dermal absorption, of aluminum salts for the first time in 2014. “At that time, we pointed out the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding the data and drew attention to the urgent need for research,” continued Hensel. In the meantime, two human studies addressing those data gaps were conducted in 2016 and 2019. Only the latter was able to produce findings to support reassessment.

Therefore, reliable data became only available five years after the BfR's request for a scientifically reliable skin absorption study. Hensel said: “In this case, our current risk assessment also shows just how dynamic the scientific process can be on certain issues, and that it remains a matter of continuously reducing existing uncertainties by closing data gaps.”

Aluminum salts are being used in antiperspirants to block sweating and inhibit malodor. Just how much of the aluminum from antiperspirants is being absorbed through the skin has long been uncertain. There are currently three human studies from 2001, 2016 and 2019 on aluminum absorption via the skin (dermal absorption or bioavailability) from antiperspirants. All three studies are based on measuring the aluminum concentration in blood and/or urine. The scientific conclusion and scientific relevance of the three studies differ considerably.

Only the study from 2019 provides reliable data on which to conclude on the absorption rate/ bioavailability. The BfR used this data as the basis for its risk assessment and from this derived the absorption via the skin in a model calculation. The result was that a significant contribution by antiperspirants to the total aluminum exposure is unlikely based on current data.

According to current scientific knowledge, excessive aluminum levels in the body can have negative effects on the nervous system, the kidneys and bone.

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