Wet wipes and problematic preservatives…

We’re among the 24,000+ people who shared this story – about the preservative methylisothialinone – from 7 News in Adelaide. Reporter Megan Roberts did an awesome job though if you were left thinking there must surely be more to the story, well, you’re right!

The 7 News story features a young woman who suffered a shocking reaction to wet wipes due to sensitivity to methylisothialinone. It’s use in wet wipes or any form of cosmetic is mystifying because – as pointed out by Dr Lynne Gordon of Flinders Medical Centre – about one in every six or seven patch tests reveal sensitivity to methylisothialinone. It’s also mystifying because the problems with methylisothialinone are no secret. It’s already banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics in the EU and its use in cosmetics is also restricted in Canada and Japan.

It’s no wonder that people like Danae (the young woman in the clip) are presenting at hospital emergency departments and medical clinics with reactions – and no wonder that the news story got such a response. That said, for anyone who knows and understands ingredients, reading the comments was probably just as much of an eye opener. The recommendations of alternatives ranged from OK to misleadingly represented (eg as ‘organic’) and in some cases outright horrifying.

If you’re keen to learn a bit more about what you’re applying to your skin – or the skin of your family – read on!

Because wet wipes are wet (of course!) and often stored in warm places – hands up those of us who have kept them in our car glovebox – they therefore need to be loaded up with preservatives to prevent growth of microbes and fungus.

The ingredients list showed two other preservatives worth a mention, in addition to the methylisothialinone: methylparaben and phenoxyethanol.

Methylparaben is one of several parabens are banned in the European Union but are not banned here in Australia. Parabens are endocrine disruptors and formaldehyde donors. That is, they mess with our hormones and as the parabens degrade, they release formaldehyde (a known carcinogen and also skin irritant). There are many different parabens and it’s quite common to find several different parabens in one product.

Public awareness of parabens has grown over recent years, so it is becoming common for brands to promote themselves as being paraben-free. Many cosmetic products even feature a logo to denote their paraben-free status. The problem is, that as parabens are being phased out, the replacements aren’t necessarily much better, if at all. I’ve touched up this very briefly as part of this article though there is still much left to write. There will be another article soon, once we get past the EOFY pressures 🙂

State Minister for Health Jack Snelling pointed out that methylisothialinone is “a relatively new preservative used in these sorts of products”. It is already found in a wide range of cosmetic products, as reported in the story, ranging from shampoo (like the one I blogged about) to bodywash and sunscreens. It’s possible that the rapid rise of this chemical is one consequence of the backlash against parabens.

The other preservative in the wet wipes is phenoxyethanol, a known irritant for skin, eyes and lungs. In the US, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has warned that phenoxyethanol can cause shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and contact dermatitis. There are several animal studies that demonstrate that it is toxic – with effects on the brain and the nervous system – at moderate concentrations. In Japan, there is a concentration limit for its use in cosmetics. The European Union classifies it as an irritant and there are various studies (on rabbit skin, for example) that demonstrate reactions at low doses. Although presumably not regarded as bad enough to be banned outright, toxicity concerns are sufficient for the EU to flag phenoxyethanol as a chemical to avoid getting on your lips or around your mouth – so best to not use those wipes as a proxy serviette when you’re in the car or having a picnic, eh?

If you would like to attend a workshop that will help you to more confidently choose quality products that are free from potentially harmful chemicals, get in touch with us!

Barbara xx

Y natural 08 8294 1167

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