HE FACTS Is it safe to use deodorant again? About 20 years ago, scientists noticed that the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease had high levels of aluminum, leading many people to discard their pots and pans and shun almost anything that contained the metal - including antiperspirants.
Today, the rumor lives on, but studies have found that there is probably no reason to sweat it.
While no one disputes that aluminum can be toxic, the metal is so ubiquitous that some exposure is inevitable, and many scientists doubt that the trace amounts in antiperspirants pose any danger.
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Of all the studies that examined the rumor, at least one, in 1990, suggested a possible link. But the study, which compared the habits of 130 patients with the disease to those of a group of healthy subjects, had a serious flaw: It relied on surrogates to answer for the Alzheimer's patients.
More rigorous studies have challenged the aluminum hypothesis. The most recent, published in 2002, followed 4,615 people for several years and found no increased risk of the disease in people who used antiperspirants or antacids, another common source of the metal.
As for aluminum in patients' brains, scientists say this may be a result, not a cause, of Alzheimer's. Dying cells are often unable to eliminate toxins, making them more likely to contain high levels of the metal.
THE BOTTOM LINE Studies suggest that aluminum in antiperspirants is safe.