Aluminium in antiperspirants: Low contribution to the total intake of aluminium in humans

Consumers can take up aluminium compounds from various sources, including antiperspirants containing aluminium. As stated in the BfR Opinion of 2019 (045/2019) on aluminium 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 aluminium chlorohydrate in antiperspirants, a product group that is used daily. Their contribution to the total aluminium 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: “Significantly less aluminium 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 aluminium 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: “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.”

To the BfR-Opinion

Aluminium salts are being used in antiperspirants to block sweating and inhibit malodour. Just how much of the aluminium from antiperspirants is being absorbed through the skin has long been uncertain. There are currently three human studies from 2001, 2016 and 2019 on aluminium absorption via the skin (dermal absorption or bioavailability) from antiperspirants. All three studies are based on measuring the aluminium 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 aluminium exposure is unlikely based on current data.

Those who wish to protect themselves from excessive aluminium absorption, should make sure that acidic and salty foods and beverages do not come into contact with aluminium, e.g. via bottles, baking trays, grill pans.

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

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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