Safety First

Be Informed  Be Safe  Be Conscious


Everyday Men, Women and Children are being bombarded with toxic chemicals in food, household products and personal care products. U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off of auto parts), and surfactants (they reduce surface tension in water, like in paint and inks). These toxins are absorbed into our body daily and just wreaking havoc on our health.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) the following are noted as “chemicals of concern.”   It is a list of ingredients not meant to scare but to inform you, so that conscious choices can be made.


1. 1,4-Dioxane

Is a colorless liquid with a faint sweet odor. It is a by-product of ethoxylation and is responsible for making chemicals like ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and polyethylene glycol (PEG), less abrasive by enhancing foaming and emulsifying. Their primary route of exposure is through inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact.

Found in: Shampoo, bubble bath, liquid soap, hair relaxers and laundry detergent 

Side effects: Skin, eyes and lung irritation, kidney and liver damage.

Banned in: Canada & the European Union (EU)


2. Acrylates & Methacrylates

Are the salts, esters and conjugate bases of methacrylic acids forming polymer plastics like acrylic. They are noted for their transparency, resistance to breakage and elasticity. Their primary route of exposure is through inhalation or dermal contact.                  

Found in: Acrylic nails, nail polish, lash adhesive, hair styling products and micro-beads.

Side effects: Skin, eye and throat irritations, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cellular and neurological damage.

Banned in: The Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium and Sweden have issued a joint call to ban micro-plastics & Illinois is the first state to create legislation to ban micro-beads by 2018


3. Benzophenone

Is produced by the copper –catalyzed oxidation of diphenylmethane with air. It is otherwise recognized as benzophenone-2 (BP2), oxybenzone (benzophenone-3 or BP3) and sulisobenzone (BP4). It is used as a fragrance and color enhancer to products that are in the presence of UV light. Its primary route of exposure is dermal contact.

Found in: Sunscreen, lip balm, nail polish, foundation, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, fragrance, plastics, ink and clear coating on photo paper.

Side effects: Photosensitivity, increases harmful free radicals, linked to melanoma, contact eczema and allergies.  

Banned in:

Sweden: The Swedish Research Council has determined that sunscreens with oxybenzone are unsuitable for use in young children.  Children under the age of two years have not fully developed the enzymes that are believed to break it down. No regulations have come of this study yet. 

Hawaii has banned Oxybenzone, which is also known as benzophenone-3 as it's not considered reef safe.  


4. Oxybenzone

Is a pale-yellow solid that is readily soluble in most organic solvents. Oxybenzone belongs to the class of aromatic ketones known as benzophenone. It is synthetic estrogen that easily penetrates the skin to absorbs UV light. Is also used in plastics as an ultraviolet light absorber and stabilizer and can leach from food packaging. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), oxybenzone is ineffective and harmful. Similar concerns have been expressed for related products including avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.  Due to the advent of PABA-free sunscreens, oxybenzone is now the most common allergen found in sunscreens.  Its primary route of exposure is dermal contact.

Found in: Cosmetics, sunscreen, nail polish, fragrances, hair spray

Side effects: cell mutation, endocrine dysfunction, irritation to skin

Banned in:  Sweden, Hawaii.  There is a 6% restriction use in cosmetics in Canada.


5. Retinyl Palmitate

Is a synthetic alternate for retinyl acetate in Vitamin A.  Data from an FDA study indicate that retinyl palmitate, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.  Its primary route of exposure is dermal contact and oral.

Found In:  Anti-aging creams, lotions, moisturizers, and foundation.

Side effects:  Reproductive toxicant, gene mutation leading to cancer. 

Banned in:  All-trans retinoic acid (Tretinoin) is banned in The EU.


6. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

BHA is an antioxidant composed of two isomeric organic compounds. BHT is a fat-soluble organic compound that is used as an antioxidant additive. These preservatives keep fats and oils from reacting with oxygen. If these ingredients react with oxygen then they will go rancid. Oxygen is therefore drawn to the BHA & BHT instead of the fats and oils, which help product have a prolonged shelf life. Their primary route of exposure is through inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact.

Found in: Lip products, hair products, makeup, sunscreen, antiperspirant/deodorant, fragrance, lotions, creams…It is also found in chips, cereal, gum, animal feed, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil and embalming fluid.

Side effects: Endocrine disruptor, organ-system toxicity, impairs blood clotting, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer and respiratory irritant

Banned in: The U.K. doesn’t allow BHA in infant food and Japan and other parts of the EU have banned both BHA and BHT. Health Canada has categorized BHA and BHT as a “high human health priority.”


7. Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde Releasing Perservatives

Is a colorless, highly reactive, poisonous aldehyde gas, formed by oxidation or incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. In liquid form it is referred to as “formaldehyde”, “methylene glycol” or “formalin”. The Formaldehyde releasing preservatives are DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethlglycinate. They are used as an antiseptic, preservative disinfectant, histologic fixative (mixed with other chemicals is a tissue preservative, like embalming fluid) and a general-purpose chemical reagent for laboratory applications. It is a gas naturally found in human and animals, however, it’s application in cosmetics, building materials and home products are quite toxic. Their primary route of exposure is through inhalation or dermal contact.                  

Found in: Nail polish, nail hardener, eyelash glue, hair gel, soap, shampoo, lotion, deodorant, makeup, resin, wood product, vinyl flooring, toilet bowl cleaner.

Side effects: Some individuals may experience adverse effects such as water eyes, burning sensation in the nose and throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea and skin irritation. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure and may be linked to some forms of cancer.

Banned in: Sweden, Japan, but Australia and the EU allow restricted use. Banned in Minnesota for in- state sales of baby personal products.


7. P-Phenylenediamine- Coal Tar Dyes

Coal tar is a complex mixture of hundreds of compounds and is derived from burning coal. It appears as a thick dark liquid. Generally, it is identified by a color index (C.I) followed by 5 digits. In food and cosmetics, the U.S. may also list it as “FD&C or D&C”. Their primary route of exposure is through ingestion, inhalation or dermal contact.  

Carbon Black is used as a pigment in cosmetics produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-based products such as coal tar.

Found in: Eyeliner, mascara, pressed powders, hair dye (most common), nail polish, lipstick, foundation, temporary tattoos (Henna), textiles, pen ink, food, rubber and road surfaces.

Side effects: Respiratory toxicant, skin allergen, eye irritant, can cause blindness; scalp burning and known human carcinogen causing skin tumors. It is associated with cancer of the lung, bladder, kidney and digestive tract.

Banned in: The EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have banned the use of coal tar in cosmetics.


9. Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA and TEA)

Are clear, colorless, viscous liquids with ammonia-like odors, which have the combined properties of alcohols and amines. They reduce the surface tension of substances so that water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients can be blended together. These ammonia compounds are used in cosmetics as fragrance, pH adjusters, emulsifiers or foaming agents. When these compounds are used in the same products, they break-down into nitrogen and form nitrosamines, a carcinogen called, nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA) and is easily absorbed through he skin.   Their primary route of exposure is through dermal contact.  

Avoid the following Ethanolamine Compounds: Cocamide DEA, Cocamide MEA, DEA-Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA Myristamide DEA, Oleamide DEA, Stearamide MEA.

Found in: Soap, shampoo and conditioner, hair dye, bubble bath, body wash, lotion, shaving cream, paraffin, eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, fragrance, sunscreen, foundation, household cleaning products.

Side effects: known carcinogen and linked to cancer, alters sperm structure affecting male reproductive health, organ toxicity, function and brain development in offspring, tremors.

Banned in: The E.U. prohibits DEA in cosmetics and Canada has put them on the prohibited and restricted hot list.


10. Fragrance

Is defined by the FDA as a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. Companies that manufacture perfume or cologne purchase fragrance mixtures from fragrance houses (companies that specialize in developing fragrances) to develop their own proprietary blends. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives, and dyes. These additives are frequently, but not always, listed on product labels. In contrast, the chemical components in fragrance itself are protected as trade secrets and described on the label only as “fragrance”, “parfum(e)” or “aroma”.  It's primary route of exposure is through dermal contact.  

Found in:  Sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, face cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs…just about everything.

Side effects:  The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects like skin irritation, swellings, and rashes, allergies and reproductive toxicity.

Banned in:  The EU is stepping up, proposing a ban on three common fragrance ingredients—atranol, chloroatranol, and lyral—found in everything from perfumes and lotions to cleaners and plastics. 


11. Toluene

Toluene is a clear and colourless volatile liquid or vapour used in industry and pharmaceuticals. Is is used as a solvent in types of paint thinners, contact cement, model airplane glue and sometimes is used as a recreational inhalant. It is used in substances such as benzene, nylon, and plastics. It can also be used as an octane booster in gasoline fuels for internal combustion engines.  It's primary route of exposure is through dermal contact and inhalation.

Found in: automotive fuel, rubber, paint and paint thinners, lacquers, adhesives, glue, inks, plastics, cosmetics, including nail polish, nail polish remover and hair dyes. 

Side effects: irritation of eyes, nose, throat, fatigue and headaches, confusion, depression, as well as memory loss and sensory deficits (hearing and vision impairment); pre- and post-natal effects: fetal development retardation, skeletal abnormalities, cognitive deficits and death.

Banned in: The EU


 12. Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP or TPP)

Is a colourless solid ester (triester) of phosphoric acid and phenol.  It is used as a flame retardant compound meant to slow the spread of fire and found in polyurethane foam in furniture and baby products.  It is a plasticizer in lacquers and varnishes and aids in increasing flexibility and durability. It's primary route of exposure is dermal contact and inhalation.

Found in: Nail polishes

Side effects: Reproduction/fertility problems, hormone imbalance, weight gain

Banned in: Under review based on widespread exposure and potential toxicity.


13. Mineral Oil

Mineral oil (or mineral paraffins) is a colourless and odourless by-product of petroleum. This petrochemical helps retain moisture (forms a protective barrier over the skin) and reduce water loss from the skin. However, different grades of this chemical are considered human carcinogens. The highest grade is, “pharmaceutical grade,” or “mineral oil USP” Companies do not stipulate the purity of the mineral oil used in a product. Hence, some mineral oils contains toxic contaminants (such as 1, 4 dioxane; please refer to the description provided for this chemical), which has led to public health concern.

Found in: Engines (unpurified form), moisturizers, lipsticks, lip products, cream make-up remover, hair dyes, self-tanners

Side effects:  Estrogen dominance and endocrine disruption, tumour growth, and candidiasis (e.g., in children) due to the growth of yeast, fungus, and bacteria, and sunburn-related scarring due to the retention of heat and the prevention of air flow.

Banned in: Improperly refined petroleum jelly is banned in the EU


14. Petrolatum

Is a naturally occurring, yellow-to-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth's surface, which is commonly refined into various types of fuels. Also known as petroleum jelly.  It is a refined crude oil called mineral oil, (please refer to the ‘Mineral Oil’ information) and petroleum by-product. It presents as a waxy substance that provides a barrier to help retain moisture in the skin.  It's primary route of exposure is dermal contact.

Found in: Moisturizers, lotions, lip balm, soaps, hair products

Side effects: skin irritation, rashes, premature aging (e.g., not enough oxygen leading to cell death), and found in breast tumors.

Banned in: restricted use in the European Union – classified as a carcinogen; under investigation in Canada and only highly refined petrolatum is sold in Canadian products


15. Triclosan

Was developed in the 1960's and used as a preservative and added to products to disrupt and prevent growth of microorganisms a commonly known as an anti-bacterial chemical.  It's primary route of exposure is dermal contact.

Found in: toothpaste, shampoos, deodorants, fragrances, soaps, mouthwashes, cosmetics, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent, ‘anti-bacterial’, household products (e.g., garbage bags), and pesticide. Also found in kitchenware, clothes, and toys.

Side effects: Irritation to eyes and skin, risk for bacteria resistance (i.e., unresponsive to antibiotics and antibacterial products), endocrine disruption and impaired thyroid function/metabolism (hormone interference), tumor/cancer cell growth and proliferation, found in human milk and umbilical cord blood, which raises concern for fetal development.

Banned in: Under on-going investigation due to potential public health risk and related toxicity; nevertheless, Triclosan use is restricted in cosmetics in Canada, Japan, and the EU. 


16. Parabens 

Parabens, are also referred to as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben.   These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their anti-bacterial and fungicidal properties.  All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced. Their efficacy as preservatives, in combination with their low cost, the long history of their use explains why parabens are so commonplace. It's primary route of exposure is dermal contact.

Found in:  Creams, lotions, deodorants, mascara, foundation,  fragrances, shampoo, conditioner, shaving gels, personal lubricants and toothpaste. 

Side effects:  It mimics estrogen, interferes in hormone production, reduces testosterone/ sperm level, breast cancer risk, and with UV, increased skin damage. Maternal exposure in utero can lead to anxiety and behavioral changes in children

Banned in: Restriction of use in cosmetics in the EU. Some forms are banned in Denmark in cosmetic products for children up to 3 years. Limited restrictions on use in Canada.


17. Siloxanes (and any chemical ending in ‘siloxane’)

Siloxanes are a naturally derived chemical element from the earth and found in several mineral, including clay, amethyst, and opal. Some silicones are hard, others are volatile liquids. These silicone-based substances assist to provide moisture and softens products. This chemical benefits a product by assisting in shine production and quick drying.  As well, silicones are also replacing phthalates that have been used for baby bottles and other products that come in contact with the body. It's route of exposure is dermal contact.

Found in: Oil-free makeup, hairspray, mousse, gel, hair detanglers, moisturizers, high-gloss lipsticks, deodorants, baby colic drops, toys, breast implants, non-stick coating in bake ware, utensils, and used as sealants and lubricants in industrial environments. 

Side effects:  Hormone disruption, fertility,  at high does tumor development and immune system dysfunction.

Banned in: Siloxanes (and D5, or Cyclopentasiloxane) are generally harmless unless used in large quantities or ingested. No restrictions on use in Canada; however, limitations on use of certain forms. Under investigation in Norwegian areas over several years due to toxic effects on the arctic environment and marine life.


18. Phthalates (DBP, DMP, DEP)

These chemicals are used in a vast arrange of objects to provide flexibility and softness; some of these substances are toxic while others are harmless.  Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) has been used as a plasticizer in cosmetic products to provide durability and strength (i.e., nail polish). Two forms (dimethyl phthalate (DMP) and diethyl phthalate (DEP), for the most part are considered less harmful in cosmetics.

Pthalates are not chemically connected to their products which means that the chemical can leak out of the products. Individuals can be exposed by eating food stored in plastic, or fumes in the air (i.e., dust in rooms, wall paper), and by children chewing on soft toys. It's route of exposure is dermal absorbtion and inhalation.

Found in:  Plastics (also medical uses: IV bags and tubes), toys, floor and wall coverings, shower curtains, detergents, food packaging, makeup, nail polish, hair spray, skin, moisturizers, soap, shampoo, fragrances, pacifiers and teethers. 

Side effects:  Endocrine disruptor, certain forms - possible cancer risk – carcinogen (in animals – tumors, endocrine and hormone disruptions). Children at greater risk. General, human health effects are not yet fully known.

Banned in: The EU bans DPB in cosmetics and children's toys.  Health Canada recently announced regulations banning six phthalates (including DBP) in soft vinyl children's toys and child care articles, but its use in cosmetics is not restricted. 


19. Camphor

Is a white or colorless, waxy, flammable solid with a strong odour. Also produced in liquid form. It comes from the the wood of Laurel Evergreen trees native to Asia, but it is also synthetically made from turpentine oil, usually in the form of mineral turpentine or other petroleum distillates which are very different chemically.

There are several forms of Camphor, some of which are toxic and carcinogenic. White camphor oil has many benefits. This product can be inhaled or rubs on the skin to help reduce pain, muscle spasms, swelling (anti-inflammatory properties), and itching. It is used to treat fungal infections, minor burns, and respiratory symptoms. Can be added to other oils and, used for aromatherapy. It's primary route of exposure is dermal absorbtion and inhalation. 

Found in: Skin and hair care products, Vics vapor rub, insect repellant (due to strong odour)

Side effects: Skin irritation and redness, unsafe to swallow (can experience vomiting, nausea, burning of mouth/throat), liver damage, and can lead to death in children under two.

Banned in:  1980, the the US FDA set a limit of 11% allowable camphor in consumer products.


20. Talc  

Is a clay mineral made from the elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Mined from the earth or synthetically made it's function is to helps to absorb moisture, prevent rashes, and provide smoothness to products. The American Cancer Society states, In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled.  

It has been suggested that talcum powder might cause ovarian cancer if the powder particles (applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary.   In 2016 a woman out of St. Louis and one out of Alabama ( who has since passed) sued Johnston & Johnston for a combined total of $ 127 million USD and won their claim that the baby powder which was marketed as "safe to use every day" was the cause of their ovarian cancer.  It's primary route of exposure is absorption of nanoparticles and inhalation.

Found in: many applications including cosmetics, skin products, baby products, deodorants, feminine hygiene products

Side effects:  Irritation, respiratory symptoms, cancer (e.g., ovarian, endometrial, lung), tumor development

Banned in: Indication that talc used in the United States has been asbestos free since the 1970s; restricted use in the EU. 



Chemistry Research and Applications: Toluene: Chemical Properties, Applications and Toxicology In Chemistry Research and Applications: Toluene: Chemical Properties, Applications and Toxicology, Palminteri, Marco C. (Eds). Nova Publishers, 2013.

Gulin Selda Pozan Soylu and Saliha Kunduz Istanbul University, Faculty of Engineering, Chemical Engineering Department, Istanbul, Turkey