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Toxic Chemical Glossary:
What is Sodium Laureth Sulfate: Chemical Free Living

What is sodium laureth sulfate?

Sodium laureth sulfate is a surfactant derived from ethoxylated lauryl alcohol. It is a cleansing and emulsifying agent that is sometimes contaminated with toxic impurities like 1,4-dioxane [1].

What products is sodium laureth sulfate in?

Sodium laureth sulfate is in cleaning products and personal care products that produce suds like toothpaste, laundry detergent, and shampoo [2] [3].

How to tell if a product has sodium laureth sulfate

Sodium laureth sulfate may be listed on ingredient labels under different names including: alpha-sulfo-omega-(dodecyloxy) poly (oxy-1,2-ethanediyl); dodecyl sodium sulfate, sodium salt; PEG-(1,4) lauryl ether sulfate, sodium salt; poly (oxy-1,2-ethanediyl); sodium polyoxyethylene lauryl sulfate; .alpha.-sulfo-.omega.-9dodecyloxy)-, sodium salt; poly (oxy-1,2 ethanediyl), A-sulfo-W (dodecyloxy)-, sodium salt; poly (oxy1,2ethanediyl); polyethylene glycol (1,4) lauryl ether sulfate, sodium salt; polyoxyethylene (1,4) lauryl ether sulfate, sodium salt; sodium PEG lauryl ether sulfate; sodium polyoxyethylene lauryl ether sulfate [1].

Risks associate with sodium laureth sulfate

Sodium laureth sulfate has been implicated in several health concerns including skin and eye irritation, but the main problem with this chemical is the fact that it’s frequently contaminated by 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen that is a common by-product of the manufacturing process [2]. Below are health problems caused by sodium laureth sulfate and its contaminants:

  • Skin irritation
  • Lung irritation
  • Eye irritation
  • Organ toxicity
  • Cancer [2] [1] [3]

How to avoid sodium laureth sulfate

Avoid products that contain sodium laureth sulfate by reading product labels [3]. Avoid products that contain any of the following: alpha-sulfo-omega-(dodecyloxy) poly (oxy-1,2-ethanediyl); dodecyl sodium sulfate, sodium salt; PEG-(1,4) lauryl ether sulfate, sodium salt; poly (oxy-1,2-ethanediyl); sodium polyoxyethylene lauryl sulfate; .alpha.-sulfo-.omega.-9dodecyloxy)-, sodium salt; poly (oxy-1,2 ethanediyl), A-sulfo-W (dodecyloxy)-, sodium salt; poly (oxy1,2ethanediyl); polyethylene glycol (1,4) lauryl ether sulfate, sodium salt; polyoxyethylene (1,4) lauryl ether sulfate, sodium salt; sodium PEG lauryl ether sulfate; sodium polyoxyethylene lauryl ether sulfate [1].

In cleaning products, where manufacturers aren’t required to list all their ingredients on product labels, choose toxic chemical free cleaners with safe natural ingredients. Also remember that there are no federal criteria dictating standards for what makes something a  “natural” cleaner, so several “natural” cleaners contain this toxic chemical. In personal care and cosmetic products, do your own research on a product’s ingredients by using a resource such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep product database.

References:

[1] EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (2007-2016). Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Available online: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706089/SODIUM_LAURETH_SULFATE/ December 8, 2016.

[2] Healthy Child Healthy World (2013). Skip the Products Made with SLES (and SLS, Too!). Available online: http://www.healthychild.org/easy-steps/skip-products-made-with-sles-and-sls-too/ December 8, 2016.

[3] Women’s Voices for the Earth (). Available online: http://www.womensvoices.org/avoid-toxic-chemicals/15-toxic-trespassers/ December 8, 2016.

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