I recently thought I bought a wise beauty product until I googled the ingredients and found that even though it say its Botanical, it actually has a harmful chemical.
It’s tetrasodium EDTA, made from ethylenediamine, formaldehyde—a known carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute—and sodium cyanide (which is made from the toxic gas hydrogen cyanide).
It gets worse. This ingredient is also a penetration enhancer. That means it breaks down the skin’s protective barrier, making it easier for other potentially harmful ingredients in the formula to sink deeper into your tissues and perhaps even into your bloodstream.
Tetrasodium EDTA (which stands for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a water-soluble ingredient used as a “chelator,” which means it binds to certain mineral ions to inactivate them. Through this action, it can prevent the deterioration of cosmetic and personal care products, as it stops the growth of mold and other microorganisms. Tetrasodium EDTA also helps maintain clarity, protect fragrance compounds, and prevent rancidity. One of its main uses it to help personal care products work better in hard water.
Laboratory technicians use the three ingredients mentioned above to synthesize EDTA, and then tetrasodium EDTA is derived from that. You’ll find it in moisturizers, skin care and cleansing products, personal cleanliness products, bath soaps, shampoos and conditioners, hair dyes, hair bleaches, and many other products. It’s also cleared for use in packaged foods, vitamins, and baby food.
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that disodium ETDA and related ingredients (including tetrasodium EDTA) were safe as used in cosmetic ingredients and personal care products. The panel also said the ingredient was not well absorbed in the skin. They did note, however, that since the ingredients are penetration enhancers, formulators should be careful when combining these preservatives with other ingredients that may be hazardous if absorbed.
The Cosmetic Safety Database rates the hazard of the ingredient at a low “2,” with a low overall health hazard, and EDTA has not been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
In addition to the formaldehyde thing, however—which makes me uncomfortable—this ingredient may also contain dangerous levels of dioxane, a by-product of manufacturing that is also carcinogenic. There have been some case reports of sensitive individuals developing eczema after using cream with tetrasodium EDTA, and it’s known to be a potent eye irritant. It can also be slow to degrade, making it a poor choice for environmental health.
We have other alternatives we can use, like coconut and castor oils for lather, and orange and cedar wood essential oils for natural preservatives, just to name a few. I would much rather nourish my skin with natural ingredients I know to be safe, rather than take a risk with something chemical, harsh, and potentially harmful—particularly when I have a little one running around the house who may be even more sensitive!
To avoid this ingredient, watch for these on the label:
- Edetate sodium
- Tetrasodium edetate
- Tetrasodium salt
TOP FIVE CHEMICALS TO AVOID
1. “Fragrance” can be one or more of 200 chemicals. Companies don’t have to disclose the actual components of each fragrance, under the guise that their fragrances are trade secrets. Fragrance has been known to cause many side effects, including headaches and allergic reactions. Why put an unknown synthetic chemical on your skin when you don’t have to? The Environmental Working Group has an extensive database of cosmetic chemicals and their corresponding danger rankings. “Fragrance” recieves one of the highest rankings possible in their score system.
2. Methylparaben, or anything ending in “paraben.” These preservatives act like estrogen in the body, throwing off hormonal balance. Parabens have been shown to accumulate in cancerous breast tumors.
3. Tetrasodium EDTA is a preservative that’s made from the known carcinogen, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. It is also a penetration enhancer, meaning it breaks down the skin’s protective barrier, going right into your bloodstream. Many companies trying to be “natural” will use Tetrasodium EDTA instead of parabens to preserve their products. In my opinion, Tetrasodium EDTA is just as bad.
4. Diazolidinyl Urea readily breaks down in the product or on the skin and releases formaldehyde. It’s an endocrine disrupter, a possible neurotoxin, a known immune system toxicant, and has a possible link to cancer. Even supposedly natural companies such as Shikai and Blue Lizard use the ingredient.
5. Propelyne Glycol, among other things, is a penetration enhancer, meaning it’s a carrier for other chemicals, bringing them into your skin and your bloodstream. It’s a known skin irritant, it has been shown to cause cancer in lab tests, a possible endocrine disruptor, and a possible neurotoxin. You can find it in over 3000 products, including lotions, deodorants, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner and body washes.