UH-OH: Turns Out Coconut Oil Has A Major Dark Side
f you’re one of those people who, like us, love coconut oil and believe the nutty stuff can do no wrong, we’ve got some alarming news for you. While pure coconut oil is still a-okay to use for skin care, cooking, and the like, SFGate reported recently that a chemically modified form of coconut oil found in personal-care products (from shampoo to body wash to hair color) is a known carcinogen. Cue ominous music, right?
According to Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist and hair-care specialist at Aviva, cocamide diethanolamine (or cocamide DEA) is a relatively common foaming or thickening agent used in cleansing products. “Cocamide DEA is used as an emulsifying agent to make products ‘creamy’ and is made by reacting the mixture of fatty acids from coconut oils with diethanolamine,” Robinson explains. “DEA is an allergen that, in small doses, can create mild forms of dermatitis in individuals who are susceptible to skin allergies — but high doses of this chemical have been linked to potentially being carcinogenic to humans.”
What exactly constitutes a high dose? According to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, that would be 10,000 parts per million (ppm) of cocamide DEA in a product, or one milligram per liquid liter.
Despite the fact that the IARC study found that many of the products it tested contained that dangerous 10,000 ppm of cocamide DEA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still does not recognize the link between cancer and DEA. Actually, according to Robinson, the FDA has not updated its public release on diethanolamine since 2006, even though the National Toxicology Program completed a study in 1998 that found a connection between regular exposure to DEA and cancer in lab animals. (It’s important to note that the NTP did not show this link with humans.)
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