Monthly Archives: January 2010

Stealth poison?

I don’t normally go in for company-bashing. But the large pharmaceutical companies certainly have a lot to answer for.

My wife has started to suffer from some sort of eczema. Definitely an allergic reaction to something. And I’ve started itching as well. Sympathetic reaction? Maybe. So we put our thinking caps on. Having worked in IT support one of the first troubleshooting questions to a problem is “When did it start?” Followed by “What’s changed?”

Well, from what we can work out, it started in December. What’s changed? The only “new” thing we could put our finger on was that we purchased some new fabric softener from Morrisons supermarket.

On the label is the following:
“NEW! Sea Breeze. Concentrated fabric conditioner. Longer lasting 7 day freshness.” Couldn’t be that, surely?
Well, last week we stopped using it and went back to using Lenor. The allergic reaction is still there though. Could a fabric softener really be the cause? I decided to investigate a bit.

So what exactly is in this stuff? On the back of the bottle is a web address. I had a look.

It asked for the barcode.
The response was a list of ingredients (which are listed on the bottle as well by the way).

Here they are:
5-15% Cationic surfactant (whatever that is when it’s at home – presumably something to do with lessening surface tension)
Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
Butylphenyl Methylpropional
Alpha Isomethyl Ionone
Hexyl Cinnamal

So I used Google.
Chloromethylisothiazolinone (also Methylisothiazolinone)
From Wikipedia:
“also used in glue production, detergents, paints, fuels and other industrial processes”

WHAT? And we’re adding it to our clothes?
Further down:
“Methylchloroisothiazolinone is an allergen for 1.7% of individuals.A common indication of an allergic reaction is eczema-like symptoms on the hands and wrists. These symptoms will disappear several weeks after exposure is ceased. A common point of exposure in household items is shampoos and soaps.”

Oh great, so we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see if that was the cause then.

Gideononline says
“Used as a preservative in polishes, paints, cleaners, and metalworking fluids”

Just the sort of thing you want in your underwear then.

“Allergic contact dermatitis reported in workers using products containing this preservative”
“Corrosive to skin and eyes”

Two out of two.

Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
Natural Skincare Authority says:
“Unsafe”. “Classified Toxic”. “Safety Unassessed”. “Reproductive toxicity”. “Safety Warnings”.
Well I don’t necessarily believe everything that one website has to say – although the layout of this site looks familiar – could it be another SBI site? 😉 so I looked elsewhere as well.

From The Green Beauty Guide
“strong evidence as human toxicant”
“Allergic contact dermatitis”
“This chemical is a potent and proven contact allergen”

Which is nice.

Three out of three.

Butylphenyl Methylpropional
Cosmetics Info states

“The IFRA Standard restricts the use of Butylphenyl Methylpropional in fragrances because of potential sensitization.”
Hmm. Restricted use. Anything nasty about it?
The next website says
“The topical application of this ingredient has been shown to cause irritation and allergic reactions in many individuals”.

Oh – and it’s also listed on a cleaning products website which states

“One or more animal studies show skin irritation at low doses”

Four out of four.

Alpha Isomethyl Ionone
Cosmetics Info says
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone as a flavoring agent for direct addition to food.”
Ah, finally. If you can eat it it can’t be that bad then. Can it? Oh dear:
“The IFRA Standard restricts the use of mixed isomers of methyl ionone (including Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone) in fragrances because of potential sensitization.”

This website states
“It’s been known to irritate the skin and trigger allergic reactions for some people. After evaluating the potential side effects of Alpha-isomethyl Ionone, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) banned the ingredient from being mixed into fragrance products “

Five out of five.

Well that’s the long names out of the way. What about the rest?
From Wikipedia :
Found in many plants. Used in perfumes since 1882.
Hmm. Not that bad then? Hang on a minute.

“moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys.”
“potent rodenticides”.

Nice. So that’s what we’ve been using to make our clothes nice and soft. I couldn’t be bothered to look up the other ingredients; I think I’ve made my case.

Lenor doesn’t appear to be much better either. Although it has less of the long-name ingredients, it does contain Alpha Isomethyl Ionone, Coumarin, and also Benzisothiazolinone – again from Wikipedia :

“used as a preservative in emulsion paints, varnishes, adhesives, washing agents, fuels and in the papermaking process”.

So we’re going to stop using this stuff altogether. It could take a few weeks for the allergic reaction to clear up; we’re also having to re-wash everything.

And from now on – eco-warriors will be pleased – we’ll use a friendlier, cheaper alternative.

White vinegar.

We may put a few drops of lavender essential oil in it.

So, are you using pharmaceutically-manufactured fabric softeners?

You have been warned.