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.

5 thoughts on “Stealth poison?

  1. Pierre

    Good point (I originally came to your site out of interest in an ST1100!) but bear in mind that only read the warnings for things can mean you stop using anything at all.

    Google "Dihydrogen Monoxide" and you'll see what I mean. 😉

  2. Trixie Belden

    I can almost guarantee you that it's a reaction to the family of isothiazolinone chemicals. It's a sneaky allergy, usually takes a while to show up and then frankly you're sensitized for life. It may take up to a month to go away even after you stop using the product, but now you'll always be sensitive to it and its cousins. These are three of them:

    It's quite common in detergents and softeners. Frankly, you don't need to use softeners. I have found that those dryer balls work pretty darn well, and no itchy skin after effects!

  3. Roger Whitworth

    Morrisons has this effect on me as well, especially visiting there on a saturday afternoon!
    Seriously though, this has given me food for thought as my wife has developed an asthma-like condition which occurs mainly at night, and I am now thinking it may be linked to an air freshener we have started using. I shall look into this a bit more using the sites you have used,
    Thanks Rob.

  4. Gayle

    My suggestion to anyone with a belief that it “might be” due to ANYTHING of the Isothiazolinone family – ask for a allergy test!!!!

    Here’s what I went through ‘before’ being diagnosed with the allergy. It began with blisters and deep dark red rashes on various parts of my body. I learned later it was known as “chemical burns”. I was misdiagnosed with doctors, dermatologists, and research doctors for over a year and a half. I was told it was impetigo (forced to be alone for a long while), then I was told it was a rare disease known as Bullous Pemphigoid (14 new cases per million people per year – they had me on 10 medications at one time for this misdiagnosis), they said I was allergic to the sun (had to wear protective clothing and such), they said it was due to prescriptions I had “previously” been on also. For a year and half, so many doctors were involved with my condition until one smart doctor decided to do an allergy test! CMI/MCI/MI and ANYTHING ending in “Isothiazolinone”. Even the creams the doctors were giving me to help cure me of the blisters and rashes had these ingredients!!!

    All it took was a simple allergy test. The after effects of the allergy are still with me due to the dermatitis and the psoriasis and the dishyrosis to name a few that I go through. I think the dishydrosis is the worst sometimes due to not knowing when a flare will happen and then it stays for weeks.

    I was on Prednisone and that worked wonderful for a while, then Methotrexate and that worked wonderful also but it was damaging my liver. Three doctors wanted me on Humira and and another Rx (too long of name to remember) but state insurance refuses to help due to price being way too high – these doctors and I received many letters of denial. As of now, all I am allowed are very almost next to nothing medications – betamethasone (prednisone family), chlobetasol, and triamcinilone.

    If in doubt, play it safe – ask for a allergy test. I find it absolutely wonderful though that the writer of this site has been kind enough to share the experience and knowledge and research! Thank you!

  5. Lee M Day

    I get very angry by all of this! The EU has just band butaphenolmetha prop an .it is a potent endocrine disrupter just 50 mg gives male rats testical. Atraphe and lots of bad effect for male and female rats see the EU report on this crap! The bloode bofins who came up with this crap must have known how toxic this chemical was its been around for some time this is bad science at its best these highly educated people have at worst sadistic fun in the lab! or at best taking all of us for a ride!……bathing your kids tonight using that bubble bath? I’d check the label if I were you!!


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