personal care products

Toxic chemicals in personal care products causing 'epidemic' of skin allergies

Sunday, July 14, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: skin allergies, toxic chemicals, personal care products

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(NaturalNews) Be careful which facial creams, shampoos, moisturizing soaps and other personal care products you buy and use, as many of them apparently contain a chemical linked to causing what some experts have now dubbed an "epidemic" of skin allergies and other dermal issues. A new report compiled by dermatologists reveals how the preservative chemical methylisothiazolinone, or MI for short, has led to a massive increase in eczema and other skin allergies in recent years, and calls on regulators to ban the chemical.

Long used in many conventional care products as a deterrent for bacteria and other harmful pathogens, and as an alternative to toxic parabens, MI is generally recognized by regulatory authorities in both the U.S. and Europe as safe and non-toxic. But its practical use in the real world tells a much different story, with many people reporting severe allergic and other negative reactions when exposed to it. The situation has gotten so out of control, according to reports, that some dermatologists are now calling for an immediate moratorium.

"We are in the midst of an outbreak of allergy to a preservative which we have not seen before in terms of scale in our lifetime," says Dr. John McFadden, a consultant dermatologist at St. John's Institute of Dermatology in London, as quoted by the Telegraph. "Many of our patients have suffered acute dermatitis with redness and swelling of the face. I would ask the cosmetics industry not to wait for legislation but to get on and address the problem before the situation gets worse."

Levels of MI in personal care products have increased over the years

In years past, MI was mixed with other preservatives, so its concentration was relatively low. But as these other chemicals were phased out due to their own tendencies to cause skin allergies, MI stuck around as an isolated chemical. According to the Telegraph, concentrations of MI in personal care products today are as high as 100 parts per million (ppm), up 2,500 percent from around 4 ppm in previous formulations.

"This new epidemic of allergic contact dermatitis from isothiazolinones is causing harm to European citizens," wrote Margarida Goncalo, President of the European Society of Contact Dermatitis (ESCD), in a recent letter to the European Commission. "Urgent action is required."

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a consumer watchdog organization, MI is moderately hazardous, having been linked to various allergies and immune disorders. Studies identified by the group also link MI to brain cell damage, and the chemical has been implicated in causing nerve damage in humans.

Avoid products that contain MI by consulting the GoodGuide

Some companies have already begun to quietly and voluntarily phase out the use of MI in their products, but many other brands such as Nivea, Wet Ones, and Dove still use it, according to reports. Even some popular "natural" brands like Seventh Generation and Burt's Bees use MI in their product formulations.

You can view a complete list of known products that contain MI by visiting

"[A] brief exposure to methylisothiazolinone, a widely used industrial and household biocide, is highly toxic to cultured neurons," explains a 2002 study out of the University of Pittsburgh that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. "Because of their widespread use, the neurotoxic consequences of both acute and chronic human exposure to these toxins need to be evaluated."

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