Polysorbates are used in cleaners and personal care products as fragrance ingredients, emulsifying agents, and as surfactants . Polysorbate is treated with ethylene oxide (when it’s “ethoxylated”), then the substance is combined with fatty acids. The number following it represents the number of parts of ethylene oxide it was treated with.
What are polysorbates in?
Polysorbates are used in personal care products, cleaning products, tampons, as well as vaccines and other medications .
How to tell if a product has polysorbates
There’s more than one kind of polysorbate used today. It could be listed as polysorbate followed by a number or under these synonyms: Liposorb; PEG sorbitan laurate; Tween 20; PEG-# sorbitan laurate; Polyethylene glycol (#) sorbitan laurate (where # = 4,10,40,44,75,80,500,2000, or 4000), PEG-80 sorbitan laurate, monododecanoate poly (oxy-1,2-ethanydiyl) derivs, sorbitan, polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate; polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monolaurate, polysorbate-20, sorbimacrogol laurate 300, sorbitan, monododecanoate, poly (oxy-1,2 ethanediyl) derivs. [1, 8].
Risks associated with polysorbates
Health concerns related to the presence of polysorbates and impurities related to this ingredient include cancer (due to ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane), skin allergies, developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity. [1, 3, 5, 6, 7]. One of the biggest concerns regarding polysorbates is the presence of carcinogens including ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane. When polysorbate is “ethoxylated”, it can become contaminated with these dangerous carcinogens.