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Substance impurities in products

Cosmetic and household products are sometimes contaminated with chemicals that are not listed on the ingredients label. The contaminators are often by products from the manufacture that are, more or less, unintentionally left in the products. Curious Chloride’s scanner will highlight all ingredients that are in the risk of being contaminated by harmful chemicals that are not visible on the content lists.

Contamination in consumer products is broadly caused by four things:

  • Impurities are formed when substances react with other substances in the finished product.

  • Trace amounts of impurities are released from certain chemical compounds.

  • Contamination residuals from the production, storing and packaging sites.

  • Color cosmetics containing metals.

Intentional and unintentional contamination

Firstly, there are some chemicals that may react to other chemicals in the same product. In some of those reactions, new substances are formed. One of the most common reactions of this sort in cosmetic products is when ingredients contain amines react to nitrosating agents and forms toxic nitrosamines. Amines are very common to find in cosmetics and all of them can possibly generate nitrosamine contamination.

The second cause of contamination are caused by the chemical composition of ingredients. A substance that consist of repeated molecules of another chemical may release trace amounts of that chemical in the product. One common example is polyacrylamide, a chemical that contain repeated molecules of acrylamide. Products containing polyacrylamide are therefore likely to also contain the harmful chemical acrylamine.

Natural or organic does not necessarily mean toxic free. One of the most common impurity in all kinds of cosmetic products is the toxic 1,4-dioxane. 1,4 Dioxane is an expected by product that is formed when a substance is ethoxylated; when ethylene oxide is added to other substances or compounds. All products containing ethoxylated ingredients, also natural and organic products, are likely to be contaminated by trace amounts of ethylene oxide and 1-4-dioxane.

“1,4-dioxane can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process by vacuum stripping, but there is no easy way for consumers to know whether products containing PEGs (etohyxylated ingredients) have undergone this process. In a study of personal care products marketed as “natural” or “organic” (uncertified), U.S. researchers found 1,4-dioxane as a contaminant in 46 of 100 products analyzed.” David Suzuki Foundation

The third cause of impurities is also the result of the manufacture process but is caused by external factors, on the contrary to the previous point. The whole manufacturing process, from production, to storage and migration from packaging, is vulnerable to contamination. Contamination could for example come from disinfectants, such as Chloramine-T, that are used on the production site and carried over to the products.

But contamination could also come from pesticides that are used on crops that later become cosmetic ingredients. One example is hydrogenated cottonseed oil, a substance known to contain both pesticides and metals from manufacture. While some metals, such as iron, serve various functions in our bodies, contamination from metals like lead and arsenic only have negative effects.

The last group of contaminators that Curious Chloride scans are metals found in cosmetic colorants. Color cosmetics such as eye shadows, eyeliners, lipsticks and blushes, sometimes intentionally contain small amounts of metals like chromium and aluminium. But some color additives are unfortunately also unintentionally polluted by dangerous heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and mercury.

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