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Thursday
Jul162009

BABASSUAMIDOPROPALKONIUM CHLORIDE

Today's Chemical:

BABASSUAMIDOPROPALKONIUM CHLORIDE

EWG Risk Score:

0

What is it?

Babassuamidopropalkonium Chloride is a quaternary ammonium salt.  It is created by a complex reaction starting with babassu fatty acids and adding amines, alkines, methyl iodide and then following up by treating it  with silver oxide, water, and heat.  I'm simplifying of course...but suffice it to say they start out with babassu oil, add a bunch of chemicals, heat and reactions until it's a synthetic chemical of its own.  It's used in many ways, as a surfactant, conditioning agent and fabric softener. 

Why is it a risk?

This is another example of the Costmetics Database not picking up on a risky chemical.  Chemical companies come out with these chemicals so quickly, it takes time for the database to flag them.  But because this chemical is a quaternary ammonium salt, it not only is created by a non-environmentally friendly process, it is a pretty serious risk.  I found a web page that outlines the risks involved with any quaternary ammonium salt (or "quats" as they call them in the cosmetics industry)...You can read the full link here, or enjoy these lovely excerpts: 

Quaternary ammonium compounds can cause toxic effects by
all routes of exposure including inhalation, ingestion,
dermal application and irrigation of body cavities. Exposure
to diluted solutions can cause mild and self-limited
irritation. Concentrated solutions of quaternary ammonium
compounds are corrosive and can cause burns to the skin and
the mucous membranes. They can produce systemic toxicity due
to their curare-like properties. They can also cause allergic
reactions.

Mild to severe caustic burns of the skin and mucous
membranes can occur depending on the agent and the
concentration. Other signs may include: nausea, vomiting,
abdominal pain, anxiety, restlessness, coma, convulsions,
hypotension, cyanosis and apnoea due to respiratory muscle
paralysis; death may occur within 1 or 3 hours after
ingestion of concentrated solutions. Haemolysis and
methaemoglobinemia have been reported infrequently.

What type of products is it in?

Body Wash

Shampoo

Conditioner

Hand Cream

Bubble Bath

Body Lotions

Companies that use this chemical:

Avalon Organics

Nature's Gate

Steph's Opinion

Years ago when I was starting to research making products, a chemical salesman tried to sell me a similar chemical: sunfloweramidopropalkonium chloride.  He said that I would get the conditioning effects that I wanted with a natural-sounding chemical on the label.   So, I ordered a sample to check it out.  When I got it, I started reading the MSDS sheet that came with it.  After I saw all the warnings, there was no way that I was going to expose myself and my customers to the chemical.  The only companies that are using this particular "quat" are Nature's Gate and Avalon.  However, anything that reads "alkonium chloride" is in the same family of chemicals.

Sources:

http://www.inchem.org/documents/pims/chemical/pimg022.htm#SectionTitle:2.1%20%20Main%20risk%20and%20target%20organs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hofmann_Elimination

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Reader Comments (2)

First:
Babassuamidopropalkonium Chloride had Babassu Oil as a basis, not Shea Butter [Vitellaria paradoxa (formerly Butyrospermum parkii)].

So I assume, you used the MSDS of the Sheabutter variant, which is different from that of the Babassu. Each ingredient has its own MSDS.
This is not a good start

Second: "babassuamidopropalkonium chloride raises no health concern because:
• It is not on any of GoodGuide’s lists of toxic chemicals which cause suspected or recognized health effects
• It has not been detected in human tissue or urine
• It is not a high production volume chemical that lacks safety data".
Quoted from Goodguide, a very trusted source, run by qualified academic specialists.

Why scare people when it is not necessary?
The risks you mention would - if at all - apply only if large amounts of the specific ingredient were swallowed; a product (say a hairconditioner) contains max. 1%. So the amount you put on your hair would be 0.01%. That lowers any possible risk significantly. Even more when it is a rinse off product.

Thu, September 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCorry.Helmond

Thanks for the correction, Corry. The only mistake I made was in the name of the oil from which it was derived. I went off the correct MSDS sheet. It is still a quaternary ammonium compound. GoodGuide isn't really a reliable source--they don't individually review each ingredient, but only pull information from other databases. When there's no information available, it shows up as "safe" in their database.

Mon, September 23, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

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