Triethanolamine: Toxic chemical in Household Cosmetics Products



Tri-ethanolamine or TEA is also another chemical compound found in household products that has been called a carcinogen. TEA is an organic chemical compound which is both a tertiary amine and triol (a molecule made up of three alcohol groups). Tri-ethanolamine is a carcinogen made from ethylene oxide and ammonia. It is a chemical that is widely used in the industry for the manufacturing of household products, textiles, agricultural herbicides, pharmaceutical ointments, paraffin, waxes and so on.


As a chemical found in household products, Tri-ethanolamine is used as a strong base and is found in liquid laundry detergents, vegetable oils, polishes, nail cleansers and so on. TEA is also an active chemical agent in ear drops that is used to treat impacted ear wax. As a PH balancer, TEA is a chemical used in the cosmetic industry for manufacturing cosmetic products such as skin lotion, eye gels, shampoo, and so on. TEA is also used as a chemical compound in conventional mainstream skincare because of its strong PH balance which makes skin care products appear gentle to skin, non-irritating and hypo allergic. However, regardless of all these benefits attributed to TEA, we cannot hide the fact that it is both a toxic chemical and a carcinogen.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) nominated toxic, carcinogenic compound for study because of its wide spread use in both cosmetic and household products. It was believed that the chemical, TEA, can as well be a carcinogen that can cause cancer just as it is an important chemical in cosmetic and household products. This research study revealed that TEA’s carcinogenic property includes its ability to convert itself to certain chemical known as N-nitrosodiethanolamine.


Furthermore, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review confirms that TEA has the ability to instigate immune response that may include itching, burning sensation, skin scaling, hives and blistering skin. These skin inflammations have been known to activate COX-2 mRNA in inflamed cells and this can lead to cancer formation. Similar studies have also reported the induced systemic toxicity and irritation of throat and lungs airways as some of the effects of inhaling TEA in lab mice after 28 days.

Studies on how this toxic chemical can act as a carcinogen dates back to the 1980s. As a carcinogen, TEA was found to cause mutation in living cells. In animals, TEA has been proven to cause bladder and liver cancer, as well as changes in the testicles. It is believed that this toxic chemical-carcinogen can cause cancer in any of these two ways:

1.       As an amine, TEA may form carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if combined with nitrosating agents.
2.       TEA can cause liver cancer through a choline-depletion mode of action. This toxic chemical/carcinogen is believed to inhibit choline in cells



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