What is it?
Propylene glycol (PG) is a colorless, viscous, hygroscopic liquid and a derivative of natural gas. It is commonly used in a variety of consumer products and food products, including deodorants, pharmaceuticals, moisturizing lotions, pet food, fat-free ice cream and sour cream products. It is also in shampoos, conditioners, lotions and creams, toothpastes and laundry detergents. PG is also used in anti-freeze, brake and hydraulic fluid, paints and coatings, floor wax, de-icer, and tobacco.
Propylene glycol serves as Humectant – a substance that helps retain moisture content, or simply – it prevents things from drying out. That’s why some pet foods are soft and chewy. It makes the skin moist and soft and keeps products from drying out!! It is also found in baby wipes and even in some processed foods.
What can it do to us?
The American Academy of Dermatologists, Inc; Jan, 1991, showed PG causes a significant number of reactions and was a primary irritant to the skin even in low levels of concentrations.
Propylene glycol may be absorbed through the skin. Studies have shown systemic mentions (residue throughout).
The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) says: May be harmful by ingestion or skin absorption. May cause eye irritation, skin irritation. Chronic exposure can cause gastro-intestinal disruptions, nausea, headache and vomiting, central nervous system depression. (Toxicological profile for ethylene glycol and propylene glycol (update) Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR), 1996. Atlanta, Ga; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service).
Propylene glycol is also used as a solvent in acrylics, stains, inks and dyes, and in cellophane and brake fluid. It is used as a preservative in flavored coffees. PG can have an anesthetic effect. Other side effects on animals exposed to PG include heart arrhythmia, stunted growth, decreased blood pressure, and even death. BG – Butylene Glycol – is now being used to replace PG in some personal care products, eve though butylene glycol is the only one of the glycols that has not been able to get on the Generally Recognized As Safe list!
In the book Beauty to Die For, Judy Vance gives the following information:
“Propylene glycol, is one of the most common humectants. It is used in many cosmetics including liquid foundation makeup, spray deodorants, baby lotions, emollients or moisturizers, lipsticks and suntan lotions. It is less expensive than glycerin and has a better permeation rate. It has also been linked to sensitivity reactions – local irritations, allergic reactions. This would not be news to the manufacturers of propylene glycol. If you were to purchase a drum of this chemical from a manufacturer he is required to furnish you with a material safety data sheet (MSDS) and it may alarm you to find that this common, widely used humectant has a cautionary warning in its MSDS that reads, ‘If on skin: thoroughly wash with soap and water!’ What? Aren’t we putting this stuff on our skins daily, sometimes in copious amounts over long periods of time?
“It’s no wonder propylene glycol has been linked to many severe health problems including contact dermatitis (irritation), auto toxicity, kidney damage and liver abnormalities. It has been shown to be toxic to human cells in cultures. (Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Jan. 1987). In fact, in tests conducted over the years propylene glycol has been shown to inhibit skin cells growth in human tests and cell respiration in animal tests. (J. Pharm. Belg. Nov/Dec. 1988). It was found to cause skeletal muscular damage in rats and rabbits (Pharm Res Sept. 1989). It is reported to directly alter cell membranes (Human Reproduction, Feb. 1990) to cause thickening of the skin (contact dermatitis, 1987) skin dehydration and chronic surface damage to skin (Derm. Beruf Umwelt July/Aug., 1988) It was also shown to increase beta activity (changes found in anxiety states) when inhaled, (The Medical Post Sept. 27, 1994).
“Propylene glycol is a known irritant and sensitizer causing dryness, erythema (abnormal redness) and even blistering. (Safety Evaluation of a Barrier Cream, Contact Dermatitis, 17:10-12, 1987).”
Despite its record, propylene glycol continues to appear in our everyday products. It was originally developed for use in industry as an anti-freeze, brake fluid, airplane de-icer among other applications and it’s doing a good job there.
So please, please, please READ your ingredients if you don’t want to use these types of products. The manufacturer’s will not change anything until WE the people REFUSE to buy their products and their sales start to slip!!!