Is Propylene Glycol Safe?

Propylene glycol, also known as PG, PEG and propanediol, is a petroleum derivative that acts as a solvent, surfactant or wetting agent. It’s used as a humectant to help retain moisture and keeps things from drying out. It’s used in pet foods to keep them chewy. Found in cosmetics and personal care products, including baby wipes, it keeps the products from drying out and makes the skin feel soft and moist.

It’s a colorless viscous liquid and is used in anti-freeze, brake and hydraulic fluid, deicer, paints, floor wax, pet food, tobacco, laundry detergent, toothpaste, processed foods, a carrier in transdermal patches, shampoo, cosmetics, deodorants, lotions and other personal care products. It’s the only thing used today as a laxative prior to colonoscopies except one prep which uses sodium sulfate, potassium sulfate,and magnesium sulfate. It’s available in both OTC and prescription only products. The OTC version is also used as a laxative and dosed to children. It has replaced ethylene glycol (EG) because when ethylene glycol is consumed by animals it causes death.

In 1991, The American Academy of Dermatologists published a clinical review that showed PEG has caused a significant amount of reactions and is the primary irritant to the skin even in low concentrations. It can penetrate the skin easily and can weaken protein and cellular structure. The truth is it can penetrate the skin so rapidly that the EPA warns factory workers to avoid contact to prevent liver, brain and kidney abnormalities.

The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for PG says, “May be harmful by ingestion or skin absorption. May cause eye irritation, skin irritation. Chronic exposure can cause gastro-intestinal disturbances, nausea, headaches and vomiting, central nervous system depression. If on skin: thoroughly wash with soap and water.”

In tests conducted over the years, PEG has been shown to inhibit skin cell growth in human tests and inhibit cell respiration in animal tests. It’s been shown to be toxic to human cells. It’s been found to cause skeletal muscle damage in rats and rabbits. It directly alters cell membranes and causes thickening of the skin. (Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Jan 1987, J.Pharm.Belg., Nov/Dec 1989, Pharm Res Sept 1989, Human Reproduction, Feb 1990, Contact Dermatitis, 1987)

So is propylene glycol safe? What do you think?