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2D structural formula of Ethanolamine


What is it?

“Ethanolamine (2-aminoethanol, monoethanolamine, ETA, or MEA) is an organic chemical compound with the formula HOCH2CH2NH2. The molecule is both a primary amine and a primary alcohol (due to a hydroxyl group). Ethanolamine is a colorless, viscous liquid with an odor reminiscent to that of ammonia.” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This substance belongs to the groups:

This page refers to various ethanolamine compounds including for example triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA), and lauramide (DEA).

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (previously the Breast Cancer Fund) have gathered studies showing that ethanolamine compounds are carcinogenic, bioaccumulative, are of environmental concern, causes organ system toxicity, and affects male reproductive health. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also reports that an offspring’s brain development could be affected if the mother is exposed to ethanolamine compounds. The substance group is on their Red List.

If an ethanolamine compound is in the same cosmetic formulation as a nitrosating agent, toxic nitrosamines are likely to form in that product.  Nitrosating agents are not only compounds that are “visible” on the list of ingredients such as sodium nitrate, a nitrosating agent could also be “hidden” in a preservative that over time break down, after weeks or months, to a nitrosating agent.

The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) from the European Commission says that all “primary, secondary and tertiary amines can all be nitrosated to generate nitrosamines.”

In other words, as a general rule for anyone who wants to limit possible exposure to nitrosamines from their products – it is advisable to avoid amine-ingredients. Curious Chlorid’s scanner will highlight and mark all ethanolamines as “contaminated”.

The use of ethanolamines in cosmetics is restricted in the EU and Canada to reduce the risk of them generating nitrosamines.

Diethanolamine (DEA), which is a type of ethanolamine, is prohibited in both the EU and Canada.

How is it used?

Ethanolamine compounds are widely used in cosmetics*, cleaning products, coatings, inks and toners. In cosmetic products, the compounds are for example used as emulsifiers (helps to mixture non-miscible liquids), fragrances or pH-adjusters.

The ingredient can for example be found in shampoos, body washes and soaps, bubble and foam bath products, scrubs and exfoliates, acne products, facial creams, skin cleansers and skin moisturizers.

We use the European Commissions definition of Cosmetics:
“Cosmetics range from everyday hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to luxury beauty items including perfumes and makeup”.

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Read about the other ingredients.