By Celene Juarez In 2003, the Rhode Island Department of Health declared that a yellow or peach colored powder known as litargirio that is commonly used amongst the Hispanic community as an antiperspirant/deodorant, is a potential source of lead exposure for those that come into daily contact with the substance (“Lead Poisoning Associated with Use” 227). This statement was a result from a case involving two young girls that had previously visited their grandmother in the Dominican Republic and had brought back several samples of the powdered antiperspirant/deodorant. After testing their blood lead levels, they were found to be at a dangerously high level. Not to mention, the two young girls shared a bedroom with a much younger sister and she also had high levels of lead in her blood even though she did not actively use the powder (“Lead Poisoning Associated with Use” 227). This case contributes to the discussion on antiperspirants and deodorants. Many people are unaware of the ingredients of their antiperspirants and there are contradictory statements that are given about this common place product. In this paper, I will be discussing the risks and hazards associated with antiperspirants. Many people proclaim that consistent use of antiperspirants may cause cancer. There is also a societal pressure to purchase and apply antiperspirants despite the studies conducted in order to associate this product with cancer. Moreover, I will also be discussing this object with a lens that is focused on environmental ethics. All waste matter in general is a fast-growing problem in our society, and products labeled as “Beauty and Health Aids” often contain materials that are not environmentally sound. Although this paper will focus primarily on antiperspirants, it will also include some mention of deodorant because both of these forms of sweat and odor-control products are often listed as one whole product. The distinction between them being that antiperspirants are meant to stop or reduce sweat from escaping out of the sweat glands, and deodorant is meant to stop B.O. or bad odor under the arms. For this reason, antiperspirants usually contain some type of aluminum substance that blocks the sweat glands. When historians discuss the industrialization and urbanization of today’s modern societies, they typically focus on the factories, railroads, and human rights movements. However, one would only need to think about the hygiene of our ancestors’ to confirm that there is something very important in the hygienic evolution of said society. Over-crowded tenement houses and privies were replaced by apartments furnished with tools for better hygiene such as washing machines and medicine cabinets containing toothpaste, toothbrushes, and deodorant. The “civilizing process” included people making a distinction between what is tolerable and what is disgusting (Zdatny 897). Consumer culture and the increasing awareness of “manners” translated to a greater importance on hygienic practices throughout history (Zdatny 897). Furthermore, during the 1950s there was a “hygiene revolution” that was amplified by a need to forget the older, pre-World War II way of life, and to embrace an American-type brand that showcased ideals of a younger, hipper, cleaner world (Zdatny 898). Capitalism and consumer culture also followed this post-World War II movement towards modernism and emphasized the need for a more refined standard of personal hygiene. The marketing of products that specifically dealt with controlling underarm wetness and odor has only been around for a little over 130 years old (Laden and Felger 1). The first form of this product was produced in 1888, and has since grown to be one of the largest Health and Beauty Aids category in the United States; in fact, about 90% of adult consumers in the United States use an antiperspirant or deodorant on a daily basis (Benohanian 398). At its commencement in 1903, antiperspirant consisted of an aqueous solution of aluminum chloride, and had been applied by wetting a cotton ball with the product and applying it to the underarm. The commercializing of underarm products as being able to control wetness and odor began almost in tandem with the introduction of the television. The television played a large role in bringing awareness of this product to the public. In sequence with this, people were moving away from factory and manual labor jobs into office jobs where it became socially unacceptable to dress poorly and smell badly. Television helped to add stigma to the idea that B.O. was irresponsible and unwelcome in both white-collar and blue-collar work environments (Laden and Felger 8). Although antiperspirants were commonly associated with hot weather and manual labor, advertisers were quick to utilize the consumer’s emotional state as a potential cause of underarm wetness. For instance, many early advertisements included phrases such as “nervous sweating,” or in more recent years: “stress sweat” ( Laden and Felger 8). This meant that antiperspirants were no longer strictly confined to days when outdoor work will be expected, but recommended for daily use just in case something stressful might happen. Once this product’s popularity picked up, different forms of antiperspirants and deodorants were produced. This included roll-ons and aerosol cans. From the year 1962 to 1967, there was a sudden growth in the sales of antiperspirants and this was primarily due to the introduction of antiperspirants and deodorants in aerosol cans. Almost immediately, there was much controversy connected to antiperspirant/deodorant aerosol cans. Lung abnormalities were found in the animals that were used in product testing (Laden and Felger 11). Moreover, it was discovered that the chlorofluorocarbons in aerosol propellants were depleting stratospheric ozone layers. These and several other factors are considered to be hazards and risks that concern most consumers of antiperspirants and deodorants. The textbook by Robbins et al. titled, Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction, defines a hazard as an object, condition, or process that threatens individuals and society in the terms of making a living or reproduction (84). In the context of this research paper, antiperspirants and deodorants are thought by many people to be hazards. Robbins et al. goes on to state that not all hazards should be considered as “natural” because many hazards are caused by humans (84). When one considers the amount of chemicals utilized to create health and beauty aids, it is logical to suppose that these chemicals will be circulating within the world’s environmental system. When compared to products such as petroleum and household paints, health and beauty aids do not often hold the same amount of rules and regulations in society. There is also a lower chemical risk, but every year there are documented reports of people having severe reactions to skin care products that they had assumed were safe to use. Today, there are several health and beauty products, including antiperspirants and deodorants, are labeled as “natural” despite the fact that these products contain potentially harmful ingredients (Bowman 69). The lack of regulations amongst the health and beauty industry has health conscious professionals recommending for a more standardized method of labeling all cosmetics, including products such as antiperspirants that have such a direct contact with our skin and sweat glands. A risk is defined as the known or estimated probability that a hazard-related decision will have negative consequences on individuals or society (Robbins et al. 84). Studies have found traces of parabens, or preservatives used in many everyday items, in breast tumors. Additionally, these parabens found in breast tumors have been found to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen (Allam 245). In a different study, scientists had hypothesized that underarm cosmetics caused breast cancer within women. The underarm-hygiene habits of 437 women with breast cancer were observed, and it was found that women who shaved their underarms and applied deodorant on a regular basis were almost 15 years younger when they were diagnosed than those who did not use a similar, regular regime. Although there is no proof that parabens cause cancer, and most deodorants do not contain this substance, there is still much controversy about the risks of using underarm products to control sweat (Allam 245). These types of controversies are exacerbated within a society because people tend to exhibit signs of risk perception in that they allow themselves to evaluate hazards based upon their own irrational terms. The aforementioned study had concluded that there was no connection association between antiperspirant/deodorant use and breast cancer risks. Regardless of studies such as this one, there is a consistent fear throughout many societies concerning the potential risks associated with the use of underarm products. It was around the time of the second World War that plastic was beginning to be more widely used (Laden and Felger 8). Today, most health and beauty products contain plastic packaging. Furthermore, hazardous chemicals and components can be found in many health and beauty products; however, only a small amount of ingredients are hazardous compared to the over 10,000 ingredients available (Bowman 68). Likewise, the testing of these products and the chemicals that make up these products also lead to controversial and environmentally hazardous circumstances. Robbins et al. defines ethics as a branch of philosophy that deals with morality, or the questioning of human actions of either being right or wrong (67). The ethics relating to animal testing would suggest that animals should have certain rights as well. However, animal testing is the result of the ambitions of scientists and the public’s demand for safe and reliable products. In order to test a chemical for its potential to cause cancer, about 400 rats are involved in the process and 50% of the results are labeled as positive (Abbott 144). Moreover, each chemical that attempts to become available to the public in some cosmetic or household form, must go through tests that are required for regulation can utilize up to 5,000 animals (Abbott 144). Many people view animals as not having equal rights to humans and justify their use in the name of science and progress. However, many question the ethics of using animals for our own gain. Robbins et al. includes the observation that in our more modern societies with morals relating to human rights and issues of race, class, and gender, how is it possible that animals are not treated better (75)? As important figures in our shared environment, it is understandable to question the motives behind testing health and beauty products on animals. In this paper, the object of concern that was studied was that of underarm products having to do with controlling underarm wetness and odor. This product’s history can be studied as having developed along with early social media outlets, such as televisions and radios. The risks and hazards of antiperspirants and deodorants are numerous and they relate to both the individual consumer and the question of environmental ethics. With the production of chemicals and plastics utilized in order to create these products, it is understandable that the public would be wary of using these products. Conversely, it can be argued that the consumer does not know enough about what goes into the products that they use on a daily bases. Lastly, it is also important to consider the effects that the testing of these products has on the environment. Laboratories across the world utilize animals for the testing of these products. It is important to consider all of these lenses in the researching of antiperspirants and deodorants. The risks, hazards, and the questions of ethics concerning these products provide help to better navigate the global consequences they present. In the concluding paragraph of the article titled, “The Environmental Cost of Femininity,” the author makes an interesting statement that “we act as consumers to get what we want for ourselves and we act as citizens to achieve what we think is right or best for the community” (73). This statement helps to sum up the notion that, although our society tells us that smelling a certain way and having sweat stains under our arms is a negative occurrence, perhaps there is something more important to consider when shopping for the items that we use throughout our lives. Works Cited Abbott, Alison. "More Than a Cosmetic Change." 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