What Is It? Wednesday (Benzalkonium Chloride)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Welcome to my new weekly series - What Is It? Wednesday. Each week we will explore harmful and potentially harmful ingredients that are found throughout our homes in the things we use everyday: hand soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, candles, lipstick and more.

Today I am focusing on Benzalkonium Chloride*.

What is it: A disinfectant used as a preservative. Also a surfactant: a subastance that tends to reduce the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved.


In My Words: Basically it's a compound used as a preservative, emulsifier, foaming agent, and wetting agent.

Where Is It Found: In many consumer products such as:
  • Eye, ear and nasal drops or sprays
  • Hand-sanitizers, wet wipes, shampoos, deodorants and cosmetics
  • Sunscreen and moisturizers
  • Skin antiseptics
  • Spermicidal creams
  • Cold sore and fever blister treatments
  • Burn and ulcer treatments
  • Spray disinfectants for surface sanitization
  • Floor and hard surface cleaners
  • Algaecides for cleaning moss, lichen, algae etc. from pools, roof tiles, etc.
Why Do We Want To Be Careful: The Environmental Working Group rates Benzalkonium Chloride as a moderate Health Concern. There is strong evidence that Benzalkonium Chloride is toxic for those with respiratory illness and/or allergies. It is also known to contribute to sever skin and eye irritation. It also is linked with immunotoxicity (adverse effects on the functioning of the immune system as the result of exposure to chemical substances). .

In My Words: Avoid this as much as possible if you have a history of asthma, allergies and/or any other respiratory disease. Also avoid if you have sensitive skin and/or eczema.

It can be overwhelming to read about ingredients such as Benzalkonium Chloride. Most of us are busy and want to make safe choices for our families but don't have time to carefully read labels. But with some research we can often find companies committed to truly producing safe, non-toxic products. Once we find these companies it's a relief to know that they are doing the hard work and research for us.

I am reminded of Trader Joes. I love that I can walk into Traders and know that nothing I buy will have hydrogenated corn syrup in it. I don't have to read the label. I just know that they are committed to saying "no". It's such a relief. (Gosh I love Trader Joes)

So don't get overwhelmed. Find the companies that are committed to keeping you and your family safe and then stick with them.

(*Along with more than 1500 other harmful and potentially harmful ingredients Benzalkonium Chloride is on Beautycounter's Never List.)

Sources: Environmental Working Group, Wikipedia , Beautycounter's Training Resources

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