Estrogenic activity of constituents of underarm deodorants determined by E-Screen assay

Chemosphere. 2014 Aug;108:101-6. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.02.082. Epub 2014 Apr 12.


The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether different kinds of underarm deodorants commercially available in Germany might contain substances with estrogenic potential which after use enter the aquatic environment via wastewater. Twenty five deodorants produced by ten different manufacturers in the form of sprays, roll-ons and sticks were investigated using an in vitro-test system (E-Screen assay) for the determination of estrogenic activity based on the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. Seven out of ten spray deodorant samples showed a quantifiable estrogenic activity. In the case of the sticks and roll-ons it was only one out of six and one out of nine, respectively. The 17β-estradiol equivalent concentrations (EEQs) of the samples ranged from 0.1 ng g(-1) to 9 ng g(-1) deodorant. Spray deodorant samples showed the highest activities in the E-Screen assay compared to the stick and roll-on deodorants. In order to identify substances possibly contributing to the observed biological activity the samples were additionally analyzed by GC/MS. The obtained results of this non-target screening led to the selection of 62 single substances present in the deodorants which for their part were analyzed by E-Screen assay. Eight of these single substances, all of them fragrances, showed estrogenic effects with estradiol equivalence factors (EEFs) similar to parabens, a group of 4-hydroxybenzoic acid esters commonly used as preservatives in personal care products, which are known to have a slight estrogenic effect. Thus, these fragrances are obviously responsible to a substantial degree for the observed estrogenic activity of the deodorants.

Keywords: 17β-Estradiol; Deodorants; E-Screen assay; Endocrine disruptors; Personal care products; Xenoestrogens.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Deodorants / chemistry*
  • Estradiol / analysis
  • Estradiol / metabolism
  • Estrogens / analysis*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Parabens / chemistry


  • Deodorants
  • Estrogens
  • Parabens
  • Estradiol
  • 4-hydroxybenzoic acid