Sweating Over Antiperspirants?

toms of maine
On Monday night's broadcast, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson looked into claims by some doctors that using antiperspirants might be linked to breast cancer.

While there's no conclusive evidence of such a link, Attkisson in a follow-up reports on possible alternatives to antiperspirants.

Tom Chappel marketed the first all-natural deodorant in the 1970's – but lately, business has never been better.

Chappel figures more people are shunning their antiperspirants and trying deodorants like his instead ever since the FDA started requiring new labels on antiperspirants.

The labels tell consumers that antiperspirants are drugs, they contain aluminum to stop sweat, and they warn people with kidney disease to consult with their doctor. Deodorants on the other hand, aren't drugs, don't have aluminum, and don't stop sweat — they just fight odor.

There are all kinds of worries about aluminum in antiperspirants. It could be toxic to people whose kidneys aren't working properly. Some medical experts have other questions: Is it bad for developing children? Could it cause Alzheimer's or breast cancer?

Science hasn't provided all the conclusive answers, but the FDA considers antiperspirants safe and effective, and mainstream medicine brushes off any serious concerns.

Still, people with genetic risk factors like Julie Herron would rather use deodorants than take any chance with antiperspirants.

"My mother and my grandmother both had breast cancer, my grandmother actually twice," Harron says.

None of this is lost on the antiperspirant industry, which has been frustrated by what it calls unfounded fears.

"I think that the information we have, the studies that have been done are adequate to answer the question that these products are safe," says John Bailey, director of cosmetic chemistry at the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association.

Dr. Ted Gansler of the American Cancer Society, funded in small part by antiperspirant makers, also says if there's any risk at all, it's very slight.

"If someone is very, very concerned there might be a one percent chance that this slightly increases risk, then fine. Then no one's forcing them to use these products," Dr. Gansler says.

Which brings us back to Tom's of Maine and Chappel's botanical concoction.

"We don't use chemicals, we don't use artificial ingredients, we don't use aluminum in our deodorants," Chappel says.

With over $12 million in deodorant sales this year, he's enjoying the sweet smell of success.