I mentioned before that I am not a germaphobe, but I don't like germs, yet here I am back in the toilet region again, for a very good reason. I didn't know that wet wipes could contain ingredients that were skin irritants. Not only wet wipes but also baby wipes.
To clarify, I am talking about the US here, that is not so much the case in Europe and Japan where formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in cosmetics or personal care products are either banned or very limited. This article expands on that and other ingredients, not only in personal care products, but many other products including foods,that have proved to be harmful.
I decided to blog about this, despite the fact that it is a somewhat embarrassing topic, in the hopes of preventing others from the same pain. And I do believe there is benefit in pushing yourself outside your comfort zone once in a while.
I think I was suffering for about a year - at first low level discomfort, and I was self medicating for what I was convinced was hemorrhoids - they didn't get better, in fact they got worse, until one day the discomfort suddenly became horrendous pain. I could scarcely walk. The allergic reaction I was experiencing was raw blistered skin - like a very bad burn. I have seen it compared to poison ivy which I have been lucky enough to avoid, if it feels like that I will continue to do all in my power to avoid it.
As soon as it was suggested to me that the wet wipes were the probably cause, I stopped using them. It took a full three weeks before I was pain free. Three weeks of carefully cleansing with warm water and Vaseline, and then applying a zinc oxide cream - yes, diaper rash cream.
A google search turned up a lot of people who had suffered the same appalling reaction. And a number of interesting articles on the subject. On top of that, there is a class action lawsuit for false advertising and misrepresentation regarding the flushability of these wipes (read about it here).
Science Daily , CBS, even Reuters and also, many very negative reviews on Amazon.com
I looked up the ingredients used in my wet wipes, and also one brand of baby wipes. Below is a description of each ingredient, some are non toxic and some are most definitely not. I included all of them for completeness. I suspect if I did this for all my make up, shampoo, conditioner and soaps, I might never use these items again.
Baby wipes:Propylene Glycol
The FDA has categorized propylene glycol as "Generally Recognized as Safe."
Even with prolonged direct exposure, there is little to no skin irritation or sensitization. It subsides quickly once the area is flushed.
Aloe Barbadensis leaf juice
Use of topical aloe vera is not associated with significant side effects. Oral ingestion of aloe vera, however, may cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea which in turn can decrease the absorption of drugs. IARC studies have found aloe vera to be carcinogenic in animals, and state that it is a possible carcinogenic in humans as well.
Tocopheryl acetate is a form of vitamin E, a natural skin-conditioning agent and antioxidant. It is the ester of acetic acid andtocopherol and is often used as an alternative to pure tocopherol (or undiluted vitamin E) because it is considered more stable and less acidic.
This ingredient is a chemically-modified form of lanolin, a fat-like sebaceous secretion of sheep. Lanolin is listed in the PETA's Caring Consumer guide as an animal-sourced product.
Function(s): Surfactant - Cleansing Agent
This ingredient is a synthetic surfactant produced on the basis of fatty acids derived from coconut oil.
Function(s): Hair Conditioning Agent; Surfactant - Cleansing Agent; Surfactant - Foam Booster;Surfactant - Hydrotrope; FOAM BOOSTING; SKIN CONDITIONING
Polysorbate 20 (Tween 20) is a surfactant and emulsifier used in cleaners and personal care products.
Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Surfactant - Emulsifying Agent; Surfactant - Solubilizing Agent
is an excellent chelating agent, binding metals. It is used to remove limescale from boilers and evaporators. It can be used to soften water, which makes it useful in soaps and laundry detergents. By chelating the metals in hard water, it lets these cleaners produce foam and work better without need for water softening. Citric acid is the active ingredient in some bathroom and kitchen cleaning solutions. A solution with a 6% concentration of citric acid will remove hard water stains from glass without scrubbing. In the industry, it is used to dissolve rust from steel. Citric acid can be used in shampoo to wash out wax and coloring from the hair.
It is used in conjunction with trisodium phosphate in foods and water treatment. In foods, it is used to adjust pH. Its presence prevents coagulation in the preparation of condensed milk. Similarly, it is used as an anti-caking additive in powdered products. It is used in desserts and puddings, e.g. Cream of Wheat to quicken cook time, and Jell-O Instant Pudding for thickening. In water treatment, it retards calcium scale formation. It is also found in some detergents and cleaning agents.
The FDA permits this ingredient to be used as a food preservative, and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel has assessed it as safe to use in OTC personal care products. Clinical tests have shown that standard concentrations of the ingredient do not irritate, sensitize or penetrate the skin. Though clinical data indicates that disodium EDTA is not well absorbed by the skin, it has been shown to enhance the dermal penetration of other ingredients contained in a product. Thus, cosmetic formulators must exercise caution when combining it with other ingredients potentially harmful if absorbed by the skin.
Ethylene brassylate is a synthetic fragrance ingredient in the artificial musk family; also known as Musk T.
Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; MASKING; TONIC
This one scared me so much I took a screen shot from EWG's search results, remember this is Baby Wipes, would you wipe this on any part of your baby's body? (Link here to the website page in case you can't read the screen shot.)
Sodium benzoate is a sodium salt that is present at extremely low levels in berries, apples, plums, cinnamon, and several other natural foods. There’s nothing scary about the chemical in these items. But lab-synthesized sodium benzoate (and its close relative, benzoic acid) are a different story. When these preservatives are added to foods and to the interior of metal cans that contain beverages or liquid foods, they can have a detrimental effect on your health.
For example, a small percentage of people are hypersensitive to sodium benzoate and can experience asthmatic attacks, hives, or other allergic reactions when they consume the preservative. A more common problem, however, is the combination of sodium benzoate and citric acid and/or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). When these ingredients get together, they form benzene, a cancer-causing chemical associated with leukemia and other blood cancers.
Amodimethicone is a silicon-based polymer.
Function(s): Hair Conditioning Agent
Other HIGH concerns: Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Occupational hazards; Other MODERATE concerns: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive); Other LOW concerns: Data gaps
Phenoxyethanol is a preservative used in cosmetics and personal care products.
Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Preservative
Malic acid is an organic compound with the molecular formula C4H6O5. It is a dicarboxylic acid that is made by all living organisms, contributes to the pleasantly sour taste of fruits, and is used as a food additive. Malic acid has two stereoisomeric forms (L- and D-enantiomers), though only the L-isomer exists naturally. The salts and esters of malic acid are known as malates. The malate anion is an intermediate in the citric acid cycle.
Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate
Very little information is available regarding Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, although according toTriNature.com, it is a foaming agent that is derived from glucoside from coconut and corn. It is also used as a natural replacement for the ingredient known as sodium laureth sulfate, or SLES. It is seen in cosmetics and personal care products as a surfactant, most often in cleansing formulas such as mild facial washes and special sulfate-free shampoos (FaceProducts-Online).
Safety Measures/Side Effects:
No studies were found that reported any negative side effects regarding the use of Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, although it is not reviewed by the Cosmetics Database or EWG. It is considered a milder form or alternative to sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. (Sodium lauryl sulfate has been linked to cases of contact dermatitis and other irritation, in part because of its ability change the structure of proteins, while sodium laureth sulfate does not cause this reaction but can still be irritating.)
Polysorbate 20 is a polysorbate surfactant whose stability and relative nontoxicity allows it to be used as a detergent and emulsifier in a number of domestic, scientific, and pharmacological applications.
Lauryl glucoside is a surfactant used in cosmetics. It is a glycoside produced from glucose and lauryl alcohol.
About SORBIC ACID: Sorbic acid is a naturally occuring and synthetically produced compound used as a preservative.
Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Preservative