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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.

Tuesday
Apr172012

Vegetable Emulsifying Wax NF

Today's Chemical:
Vegetable Emulsifying Wax NF

EWG Risk Score:
0
But read on to find out why it's really a "7" in my opinion!

Why it's a risk:
The problem with Emulsifying Wax is that it's not just one chemical, but a cocktail of many. And these chemicals aren't required to be disclosed to the crafter or the end consumer. But I was able to track down the actual ingredients its made up of. It is typically a blend of:

  • Cetearyl Alcohol
  • Polysorbate 60
  • PEG-150 Stearate
  • Steareth-20

Let's look at these chemicals one by one.

Cetearyl Alcohol scores a 0 risk on EWG however...if you look closely at the ingredient you'll notice that cetearyl alcohol is basically a blend of cetyl and steareth alcohol, both of which score 1 risk scores in the database for skin irritation and tumor formation at high doeses. That said, I'm not terribly concerned with cetearyl alcohol, however it's not a truly natural or organic ingredient. Years ago when I was doing my first stages of reaserch, I worked with it a little bit. It stinks to high heaven when heated (and you have to heat it to use it in a lotion.) It gave me an asthma attack and I had to stop working with it.

At high doses, polysorbate 60 can cause reproductive disorders and tumor formation. It scores a 1 risk score on EWG, and it's not a huge conern at small doses. However, it's not a truly natural or organic ingredient either.

Now is when it gets messy.

Steareth-20
In my last post I talked about steareth-20 and how it can be laced with 1,4-dioxane. Read all about it here.

PEG-150 Stearate also poses the same carcinogenic contamination concerns (as it's a polyethylene glycol) and finally EWG recognizes it. PEG-150 Stearate scores a 4-7 risk score in EWG, citing cancer risk, contamination concerns (ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane), endocrine disruption, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and skin irritation.

 

Steph's Opinion:

A lot of the above products score "0" risk scores in EWG, so it's probably a shock to find out that they could be laced with trace amounts of carcinogens from the PEG components of the emulsifying wax. Many home crafters and small companies like these use emulsifying wax because of its ease of use, affordability, and wide availability. It's a pretty failsafe way to create a lotion that combines water and oil. But, because chemical manufacturers don't disclose the actual ingredients, the companies are usually in the dark about the ingredient. Small crafters probably go to the cosmetics database, look it up, see the 0 risk and trust the database. However, you have to dig deeper to really get a true picture of the natural-sounding vegetable emulsifying wax. If the companies using emulsifying wax were to disclose the actual ingredients of the wax on their labels, their risk scores would no longer be "0" but much higher. Dissapointing, I know.

Sources:
www.cosmeticsdatabase.com 
http://www.fromnaturewithlove.com/product.asp?product_id=waxemul&searchflag=1

 

Monday
Mar192012

Tert-BUTYLHYDROQUINONE (TBHQ)

Today's Chemical:

Tert-BUTYLHYDROQUINONE (TBHQ)

EWG Skin Deep Hazard Score:

2

What is it:

TBHQ is a phenolic preservative and stabilizer used in cosmetics, varnishes, lacquers, and resins. 

What are its risks:

  • A number of animal studies have found it to be mutagenic or carcinogenic at high doses.  (Source)(Source)
  • Potential skin or eye irritant at full strength.  (Source)

Steph's Opinion:

TBHQ is a phenol, so it does have the potential to interfere with the way estrogen and estrogen receptors work in the body.  There have been no studies to asses the possible estrogenic activity of this chemical.  Couple this fact with its potentially mutagenic properties, and I'd deem this an ingredient to avoid. 

Wednesday
Dec142011

Sodium PCA

Today's Chemical:

Sodium PCA

EWG Skin Deep Hazard Score:

1

What is it:

Sodium PCA is short for sodium pyroglutamic acid.  It is the sodium salt of pyroglutamic acid, a derivative of the amino acid proline. Sodium PCA is considered to be a synthetic chemical.  It is used as a humectant and skin conditioner in cosmetic formulas.

What are its risks:

  • In the presence of certain chemicals and in heat and light, sodium PCA can break down and create carcinogenic nitrosamines. (Source)
  • No reproductive studies have been done on this ingredient.  It is unknown if it is a xenoestrogen.
  • When ingested in larger amounts, may have unknown effects on the brain. (Source)

Steph's Opinion:

I would consider this a low-to-moderate risk ingredient.  I would recommend avoiding if you have MCS or are highly sensitive to MSG, as it has chemical similarities.  I hope for more data to become available as to any possible reproductive effects. 

Wednesday
Aug312011

Carbomer

Today's Chemical:

Carbomer

EWG Skin Deep Hazard Score:

0

What is it:

Carbomer is a white fluffy powder that's used in lotions and other cosmetic formulas as a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier.  Carbomer does not actually refer to one particular molecule, but is a generic term for a series of polymers primarily made from acrylic acid.  Source

What are its risks:

  • The Cosmetics Industry Review Board has deemed carbomer safe for cosmetic use.
  • Carbomer can have a varying pH that must be neutralized in order for it to do its job of thickening.  A formula containing carbomer will sometimes have these neutralizing agents listed, including triethanolamine (TEA), sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, tetrasodium EDTA, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.  Other times, companies will buy pre-neutralized carbomer, which may or may not list the neutralizing agent.  (Source)
  • Full-strength carbomer can be highly irritating to skin and eyes and may have a permeating effect on skin.  (Source)

Steph's Opinion:

Carbomer is a synthetic chemical made specifically for cosmetic use.  It has been in use for over 50 years, and has a pretty long history of safety.  However, neutralizing agents such as TEA or tetrasodium EDTA may or may not be disclosed on the label, and could possibly be contaminants in the formulation. 

Friday
May202011

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.