PitRok Natural Spray @ the Alcohol Free Shop… not so ‘natural’ after all

At first sight this profile of the Alcohol Free Shop paints a picture of a fairly harmless, if obsessive, crank. Alcohol free beers, wines and spirits may have a place in the scheme of things, but has anyone ever got drunk on a deodorant spray?

The Alcohol Free Shop’s pitch fails to present a case for banning alcohol from body sprays, so I was going to share with you an anecdote from my pub promoting days. It was about some silly parents who tried to sue a drinks manufacturer after their kids got drunk on pure fruit juice that was way past its sell-by date. But something better came along…

Alcohol free PitRok Natural Spray Deodorant, its manufacturer explains, harnesses ‘all the power of PitRok natural crystal deodorant… PitRok’s bacteriostatic action works by inhibiting bacterial growth’.

I don’t know to which ‘natural crystals’ they refer. But I did notice that the product contains 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, which doesn’t sound very ‘natural’ to me. Also known as bronopol, it does have an antibacterial action and is supplied as crystals. Created in a laboratory belonging to Boots the Chemist in the 1960s, it’s classified by the EU as harmful, irritant and dangerous for the environment. In a WWF profile of toxicologist Dr Samuel Epstein (‘exposing the links between cancer and the environment’), bronopol is named as something that, ‘although not carcinogenic… break[s] down to release formaldehyde, a potent irritant and carcinogen’.

I reckon you’re better off spraying your underarms with a little alcohol than that stuff.

4 thoughts on “PitRok Natural Spray @ the Alcohol Free Shop… not so ‘natural’ after all

  1. I produce the Saaf range of products that The Alcohol-Free Shop sell, and I have extensively researched so called ‘natural’ skincare products, and for me its a nagging marketing ploy, so I totally agree with Stephen. Most cosmetic companies claim to be natural but use only a small percentage of natural ingredients. It takes a vigilant consumer to spot these tactics (take a look at FAQ [ http://www.saaf.co.uk/faq ], where I have explored cosmetic myths). Having said that, the deodorant on offer at Alcohol free.com is actually one of the more ‘natural’ ones around. I also don’t agree with Stephen’s throwaway comment about deodorant spray.
    The point isn’t about getting drunk; it is about not using toxic chemicals on your skin. It is a well-known fact that alcohol dehydrates and denatures proteins – so why would you want to put it on your skin in the first place?

    Dr Mah Hussain-Gambles

  2. Stephen – you have wrongly identified 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol as our key ingredient when we refer to “antibacterial action” and to “crystals”. If it were it would of course be near the top of the ingredient list if it were, as this list has to be in % order (except items less than 1% at the bottom). The “crystal” is the ammonium alum which is bacteriostatic (prevents bacteria from multiplying). 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol is a preservative which is definitely needed and this type is commonly used in health store toiletry products. We sell to 100s of health stores through about 12 wholesalers and this has not been raised as an issue, although many have strict standards about ingredients. It would be interesting to know what preservative you would prefer to see – many products use parabens instead!

    This safety website gives 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol quite a good rating:


    Finally you mention you use alcohol. You might like to try PitRok Fragranced Spray Deodorant – as it uses a little alcohol to carry the fragrance it doesn’t need any other preservative.

  3. Thanks Nigel. I’m sure 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol does get ‘quite a good rating’. That’s not my point.

    That you opt for this preservative illustrates the truth that a substance’s status as natural or manmade is no indication of its being good or bad.

    I don’t think it’s unethical for PitRok to depend upon a manmade preservative. What is problematic is that PitRok claims to be better than other deodorants because it is a ‘natural’ product. PitRok helps perpetuate the myth that natural substances are good, while manmade substances are bad. This myth misinforms environmental debate, especially with regard to food, medicine and cosmetics.

    You do this in the knowledge that some of the most common allergens (e.g. pollen, nuts) are perfectly natural. (Indeed Alcohol, so demonised by the Alcohol Free Shop, could not be more natural.)

  4. Actually Nigel, that website refers to its environmental toxicity, NOT its risk to human health. Luckily it has a link:


    That describes 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol as a suspected “Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Immunotoxicant and Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant”.

    Wkipedia goes on to say:

    “While Bronopol is not in itself a nitrosating agent, under conditions where it decomposes (alkaline solution and/or elevated temperatures) (warm armpits with soap residue for instance) it can liberate nitrite and low levels of formaldehyde and these decomposition products can react with any contaminant secondary amines or amides in a personal care formulation to produce significant levels of nitrosamines (due to the toxicity of thes substances, the term ‘significant’ means levels as low as 10s of parts per billion).”


    Also..”Manufacturers of personal care products are therefore instructed by regulatory authorities to ‘avoid the formation of nitrosamines’ which might mean removing amines or amides from the formulation, removing Bronopol from a formulation, or using nitrosamine inhibitors.”

    So, it’s recommended that this substance is REMOVED from personal products and its use has declined since the 80′s due to safety concerns, yet you’re happy to keep this in your product?

    Of greater concern is the main ingredient: Aluminium ammonium sulphate (don’t you just love how they call it “ammonium alum” so those looking for aluminium-free products are fooled?) This site:


    “Acute Potential Health Effects:
    Skin: May cause skin irritation.
    Eyes: Causes eye irritation.
    Inhalation: Causes respiratory tract irritation.
    Ingestion: May cause gastrointestinal tract irritation.
    Chronic Potential Health Effects:
    Chronic ingestion may affect the brain and bones.
    Chronic inhalation may cause fibrosis, emphysema, or pneumothorax.
    The toxicological properties of this substance have not been fully investigated.”

    While aluminium ammonium sulphate does occur naturally (known as ‘Tschermigite’, its high solubility in water means it rarely occurs in large quantities. It is now manufactured industrially, from waste aluminium as well as directly from bauxite treated with sulphuric acid.

    So then Nigel, can you reassure your customers that your aluminium ammonium sulphate comes from a ‘natural’ source rather than an industrial process?

    I really can’t think of one reason why Pitrok is any better, safer or ethical than a cheaper aluminium-containing alternative.

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