A Detailed Look at Propylene Glycol

a detailed look at propylene glycol A Detailed Look at Propylene Glycol

A Detailed Look at Propylene Glycol

Most of us may have heard of the toxic claims of the notorious ingredient propylene glycol. It is commonly used in many personal care products as a cheap form of humectant. Many argue that propylene glycol is a toxic carcinogenic chemical, but companies which uses this ingredient claims it is safe to use.

So what is true? Is propylene glycol as cancerous and toxic as most of us claim, or is it just hype?

Lets take a closer look at this chemical.


 

Propylene glycol is a colorless, nearly odorless, syrupy liquid that is derived from natural gas. In its purest form, it is used as the active agent in anti-freeze and automatic brake fluid. You’ll find it commonly used in dozens of products around your home, shampoos, skincare, makeup…….. but more alarming, you’ll find it commonly used with your mechanic.

It’s used as

- Wetting agent for natural gums to simplify compounding

- a solvent in acrylics, stains, inks and dyes, and in cellophane

- Raw material to produce high-performance unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) used for marine construction, gel coats, sheet molding compounds and synthetic marble castings

- Chemical intermediate in the production of resins for paints and varnishes

- Solutions with water to make antifreeze, heat-transfer fluids and aircraft and runway deicing fluids

- Solvent in printing inks

- Solvent and enzyme stabilizer in laundry detergents

- Stabilizer in hydraulic fluids

- Plasticizer to improve the processability of plastics

Since propylene glycol is so effective to use and so cheap to manufacture, it has become a very common ingredient for many products.

Now the big question, is it safe to use on our bodies?

The FDA says its safe for use in personal care products such as cosmetics, skin care and toothpaste etc. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry on the other hand says propylene glycol is less toxic than ethylene glycol, but toxic enough to cause harm to the body.

The FDA claims that the small amounts of propylene glycol used in personal care products is insufficient to cause harm to the body. They claim that only high levels of exposure to propylene glycol results in the destruction of red blood cells, severe allergic reactions, sore throats and eyes.

Other research shows that continuous exposure has been linked to many severe health problems including contact dermatitis (irritation), auto toxicity, kidney damage and liver abnormalities.

So here is the confusion. Different reputable organizations are making conflicting claims. So who should we believe???

Short term study shows small amounts of exposure to propylene glycol in extremely small doses does not cause any severe reactions. But there has yet to be any research conducted for the long term exposure of this chemical.

No research has ever been done to test the long term side effects from constant use of products containing propylene glycol or any rigorous testing for links to cancer. The potential hazard still remains unknown. Do these complex chemicals build up in our bodies? What does it do when propylene glycol gets absorbed into our cells? What happens 10 – 20 years of continuous use???

These are questions that has not been answered. Like all potentially harmful ingredients, the harmful effects cannot been seen immediately. Take tobacco. The harmful cancerous effects of smoking can only be seen 10 – 30 years later. Lung cancer doesn’t happen in 1 day or 1 year. Symptoms normally arise after a long term period.

So is propylene glycol safe to use as a personal care product?

Until there is long term research conducted and more concrete data collated, the verdict is still up in the air. But just remember, the MSDS warning for using propylene glycol reads, and I quote “If on skin: thoroughly wash with soap and water”.

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