SEARCH FOR CHEMICALS
Contact

There are tens of thousands of chemicals in our everyday personal care products, many of which pose serious health threats.  Xenoestrogens, respiratory toxins, neurotoxins.  We do our own independent research on every chemical that we post so you have the latest information available.

Monday
Aug032009

PEG-40 Castor Oil

Today's Chemical:
PEG-40 Castor Oil

 

EWG Risk Score:
6-8 (depending on useage)

What is it?
PEG-40 is a derivative of castor oil that's used as a cleansing agent.

Why is it a risk?
According to the Cosmetics Ingredients Review PEG-40 Castor Oil "can instigate immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin." They also state it may "contain harmful impurities" like known carcinogens Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-Dioxane.

What type of products is it found in?
Moisturizers, conditioners, sunscreens, shampoos, facial cleansers.

Companies that use this chemical:

Steph's Opinion:
Sounds natural enough with "castor oil" in it's name, this ingredient is anything but natural. PEG stands for polyethylene glycol. To create PEG-40, you combine castor oil with 40 moles (chemical measurement) of ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide is a known carcinogen, traces of which are most likely contained in the final PEG product. There are many PEGs with different numbers following them (PEG-200, PEG-20, etc) but I chose to highlight PEG-40 today because of its wide useage. In over 100 products, it's even contained in supposedly "natural" products. Watch out for any PEG, as they all have the same contamination concerns. 

Friday
Jul312009

Ethylhexylglycerin

Today's Chemical:

Ethylhexylglycerin

EWG Risk Score:

1

What is it?

Ethylhexylglycerin is a conditioning agent and preservative.

Why is it a risk?

Two studies have found it to be a skin irritant, even at low concentrations, so people with sensitive skin may experience contact dermatitis.  In addition, it is an eye irritant in animal studies.  Reactions are typically low, however. (Source)

What Type of Products is it in?

Lotions, washes, shampoo, conditioner

Steph's Opinion:

Ethylhexylglycerin is a relatively new chemical on the market.  Many companies use it as an alternative to parabens and claim that it's from natural sources.  Yes, it may have started out as a vegetable oil, but it's gone through several chemical processes to become what it is.  This isn't the worst ingredient in the world, but it's also not truly natural, and safety data is highly lacking for this ingredient. There are only four studies or reviews published in the National Library of Medicine. 

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19780779

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17680873

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12492553

Wednesday
Jul222009

Benzyl Alcohol

Today's Chemical:

Benzyl Alcohol (aka Phenylcarbinol)

EWG Risk Score:

4

What is it?

Benzyl Alcohol is an aromatic alcohol used as a preservative, as the active ingredient in head lice treatment, and as a solvent.  It is most often created by combining benzyl chloride (a suspected carcinogen that has been used as a war gas) with sodium hydroxide (lye).  Sometimes it is created by reacting phenylmagnesium bromide (C6H5MgBr) with formaldehyde.

Benzyl alcohol also does naturally occur in green and other teas, and some essential oils including ylang ylang and jasmine. 

Is it a risk?

  • Benzyl Alcohol can act as a skin sensitizer in some people, and, according to a 1998 study can "can instigate immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin" at certain concentrations.
  • It is a common skin contact allergen. (Source)
  • High concentrations can induce asthma and bronchitis in some individuals. (Source)
  • Benzyl alcohol was formerly used in neonatal care as a preservative in intravenous drips, however, infants started getting benzyl alcohol poisoning (with numerous fatalities), and it has now been discontinued in this use. (Source
  • Can react with titanium dioxide to form aldehydes, including formaldehyde. (Source)
  • When high concentrations of benzyl alcohol were injected in to cows uteruses, it shortened their estrus cycle. (Source) However, it is unknown if or how benzyl alcohol reacts with the human reproductive system. 

Steph's Opinion:

Should you avoid products containing ylang ylang or jasmine essential oils?  Benzyl alcohol is a component of these essential oils, but it is a minor constituent of these essential oils.  Toxic reactions and allergies to benzyl alcohol usually occur when the isolated chemical is used in a higher concentration as a preservative (1-5% of the formulation.) A product containing one of these essential oils may contain .5% of the essential oil, 1% of which may be benzyl alcohol, so the total concentration of benzyl alcohol would be .005%. If you were a person that has a history of being allergic to benzyl alcohol, then you may want to avoid these two essential oils just to be safe.  However, if not, this is not a large enough concentration to be concerned with for the general population. Jasmine and Ylang Ylang have a history of not causing sensitization, irritation, or toxicity when used properly.  

Revised 1/18/13

Monday
Jul202009

Sodium Hydroxypropylphosphate Laurylglucoside Crosspolymer

Today's Chemical:

Sodium Hydroxypropylphosphate Laurylglucoside Crosspolymer 

EWG Risk Score:

0

What is it:

(Let's just call it SHLC for short...)  SHLC is a surfactant chemical used to create lather and to clean.

Why is it a risk?

SHLC is one of the very few chemicals on my list that doesn't currently pose any risk.  It's not ethoxylated or processed with any toxic or carcinogenic chemicals.  It's not petroleum based, but processed from sugar or corn.  It has been tested for skin and eye irritation with no adverse effects.

Types of products it's in:

Shampoo

Shower Gels

Companies that use this chemical:


Steph's Opinion:

We use decyl glucoside (aka decyl polyglucose), which is in the same family of surfactants (glucosides) in our lathering salt scrubs.  Of course we would love to use an organic castile soap, as that would be the most natural option, however, when you add castile soap to salt, it becomes a goopy mess that no longer cleans or lathers.  So, that's why we use the next best thing--a glucoside compound.  For once--you can rest easy!  It's got a crazy name, but SHLC is one you can use!

http://www.colonialchem.com/Products/Personal-Care/Poly-SugaPhos-Naturally-Green-Polymeric-Surfactants/31/Poly-SugaPhos-1200P

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