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Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide

Today's Chemical:

Ferric ammonium ferrocyanide

EWG Skin Deep Hazard Score:

(4-6 Depends on usage)

What is it:

Ferric ammonium ferrocyanide is a synthetic colorant used to impart a blue color to cosmetic formulas.  It is closely related to Fferric ferrocyanide, or Prussian Blue, but is not the same chemical. It belongs to a class of chemicals called inorganic cyanides and is also a quaternary ammonium compound.

What are its risks:

  • According to this safety sheet, "Inorganic cyanides react slowly with water to evolve gaseous hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Acids cause the rapid evolution of HCN; carbon dioxide from the air is sufficiently acidic to liberate HCN from solutions of cyanides."  Hydrogen cyanide is a highly toxic gas.  Would the water in sweat plus exposure to air, combined with the compound in a makeup be able to create enough toxic gas to be harmful?  Likely not, but it could cause an unknown low-level exposure.
  • The safety sheet linked to above also sates that if exposed to skin it can be a potential irritant.  While some safety sheets aren't an accurate reflection of the safety of an ingredient in cosmetic use, the following phrase really is concerning: "If symptoms such as redness or irritation develop, IMMEDIATELY call a physician and be prepared to transport the victim to a hospital for treatment."  and in cases of ingestion: "IMMEDIATELY call a hospital or poison control center and locate activated charcoal, egg whites, or milk in case the medical advisor recommends administering one of them. [...] IMMEDIATELY transport victim to a hospital. If the victim is convulsing or unconscious, do not give anything by mouth, assure that the victim's airway is open and lay the victim on his/her side with the head lower than the body."  These strong warnings would indicate to me this ingredient has at least moderate toxicity.
  • According to this study, Ferric Ammonium Farrocyanide is known to be neurotoxic to humans.
  • Is considered an air pollutant by the EPA. (Source)

Steph's Opinion

This ingredient has been used and approved for cosmetic use since the 1970s.  In small doses (not much is needed to give color to a product) it is likely not harmful.  However, if one is striving to reduce their exposure to toxins as much as possible, this ingredient would be one to avoid. 

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Reader Comments (5)

Wow, thank you so much Stephanie! I have to say, I have never gotten such good customer service. I like that I can actually communicate with the creator of Bubble and Bee so easily! The fact that you are so nice only makes me love the company more.

Thanks again for giving me all that wonderful information!!!

P.S. I saw your post on mineral makeup. Do you have any good, organic, non-toxic makeup companies that you can recommend for eyeshadows, lip glosses, etc? It's so hard to know which companies I can trust!

Thanks again!

Sat, May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ.T.

There are many harmful chemicals that are added to some soap contents.
That's why I only prefer naturally made soap for myself.

Sat, September 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Have you ever heard of radish root as a preservative? I have seen it in moisturizers and I'm wondering how safe it is.

Mon, November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Thankyou! That post has been most helpful. I truly believe that some companies just do not care when it comes to what is harmful for us and what is safe. I am blown away that there are so many ingredients BANNED in other countries, and not my country of the US... There is a website that has a list of non toxic cosmetics and body products for anyone interested in NON TOXIC products called Its wonderful. I am so happy to have found this website as well after looking up ingredients in a bronzer I have been using. Once again thank you so much.

Thu, April 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterShelby Sloan

The safety data sheet is very misleading. On the chemical danger scale, ferrocyanides rate a "1". To put that in perspective, vinegar is a "2".

The same blanket warning gets slapped on all cyanide-containing compounds, but they are not all the same. Ferrocyanides are amazingly inert.

So inert, in fact, they tend to remove toxins from you. If you're poisoned with radioactive heavy metals, they feed you anywhere up to 20 grams of insoluble ferrocyanides a day! (That's like eating a good-sized handful of powdered chalk. Yum.) The ferrocyanides mop up the cesium and lead on the way through you.

This is ferric ammonium ferrocyanide, of course, so slightly different. It's possible it could actually dissolve if you eat it, becoming iron salts, ammonia, and loose ferrocyanides. The iron salts are of some concern and the ammonia is far from yummy, but the ferrocyanides remain inert.

Tue, April 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMonty

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