February 14, 2014

Ingredient Spotlight: Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is in a lot of personal care products that masquerade as green (I’m looking at you, Tom’s of Maine deodorant).

It's in body washes and lotions and shampoos and much more. And did you know that propylene glycol is the active ingredient in anti-freeze [1]? It’s used industrially to de-ice planes.

Propylene glycol is also a penetration enhancer. It’s present in products to carry them deeper into the dermis. But in that process, it is absorbed into the bloodstream. The FDA calls propylene glycol “generally recognized as safe” because at low levels it isn’t toxic. However, propylene glycol poisoning has occurring during intravenous administration and consumption of large quantities by children [2]. During incorrect intravenous administration the following symptoms have been detected: hypotension, arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, serum hyperosmolality, lactic acidosis, and haemolysis [3].

Propylene glycol is an eye irritant, and inhalation can result in respiratory tract irritation [4]. Concentrations of polyethylene glycol in indoor air have been linked to increase risk of asthma, hay fever, eczema and allergies [5]. Itl has been classified as an immune system toxin and neurotoxin [6].

Propylene glycol is hard on the marine ecosystem. It is known to consume large amounts of oxygen needed by aquatic life. Presence in our water supply (i.e. when your lotion washes down your shower drain) can reduce the amount of safe aquatic habitats for fish and macroinvertebrates [1].

Not only is propylene glycol present in personal care products, but it shows up in processed food and even supplements. Check your bottles and make sure none of your products contain it.  Need a new deodorant? I got you covered.

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[2] National Library of Medicine; Propylene glycol is used in antifreeze Human Toxicity Excerpts: CAS Registry Number: 57-55-6 (1,2-Propylene Glycol), 2005
[3] Szajewski, Janusz. "Propylene Glycol (PIM 443)." 1991.
[4] DOW: Product Safety Assessment: Propylene Glycol
[5] Hyunok Choi, Norbert Schmidbauer, Jan Sundell, Mikael Hasselgren, John Spengler, Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, Dominik Hartl. Common Household Chemicals and the Allergy Risks in Pre-School Age ChildrenPLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (10): e13423.
[6] Chemical Profile, Good Guide

Image courtesy of:
1. Getty Images

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