Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a synthetic ingredient that is commonly found in many household cleaners, including “healthier” alternatives despite numerous studies proving that it causes harm to human health and the environment. Read on to find out more about Methylisothiazolinone and why it should be avoided.
Methylisothiazolinone is a synthetic chemical used in consumer products for its antimicrobial properties. It is most often applied to cleaning products as a synthetic preservative.
Methylisothiazolinone in household cleaners may cause respiratory irritation, skin sensitivities (including dermatitis), skin burns and eye damage according to peer-reviewed research and data from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) reported as part of the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Guide to Healthy Cleaning’.
The American Contact Dermatitis Society named Methylisothiazolinone “allergen of the year” in 2013 due to growing concern and reports of Methylisothiazolinone sensitivity, but like many other harmful chemicals use in consumer products continues.
The Canadian government has actually banned it for use in leave-on cosmetics but it is still allowed in rinse-off products at the maximum allowed concentration of 0.0015%. Unfortunately regulation of household cleaners is weak in North America so similar guidelines for Methylisothiazolinone use in cleaning products do not exist.
Adverse effects of Methylisothiazolinone also extend to the natural environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that Methylisothiazolinone is highly toxic to freshwater and marine organisms.
What is worse is that only one of the two compounds that make up Methylisothiazolinone is susceptible to degradation in water - and only in specific conditions. This means that it has the potential to persist in our natural environment, the effect of which is yet to be assessed.
Methylisothiazolinone is found in a wide range of consumer products from cosmetics to home cleaning products, even “healthier” alternatives. If a product has it’s ingredients listed, look for Methylisothiazolinone (MI/MIT) or Methylchlorisothiazolinone (MCI/MCIT).
It is also used in manufacturing to control the growth of bacteria in the industrial process.
Methylisothiazolinone is one of many chemicals that compound to chemical pollution of the natural environment, and according to the UN Environment Programme, producers and manufacturers are part of the solution.
The second Global Chemicals Outlook presented during the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi found that the current chemical production capacity is projected to double by 2030. This means that the goals set in the original Global Chemicals Outlook will not be achieved by the set date of 2020.
But the report maintains that positive solutions from companies that practice sustainable supply chain management, full material disclosure, and risk reduction beyond compliance can help mitigate the issue.
In the case of Methylisothiazolinone, solutions are seen in the many cosmetics brands that abide by the ingredient ban.
The reason why cleaning companies don’t use natural alternatives is that these ingredients are more expensive – and also because it puts more demand on the production process. This is because natural preservatives are more vulnerable to pathogens, bacteria and yeast so more care and cleanliness must be observed during manufacture.
But the fact is that it is possible! AspenClean uses Aspen Bark as a natural product preservative for example and produces products in entirely chemical-free environments.
As a consumer, it is difficult to keep track of every chemical that you encounter. The best thing you can do to limit your exposure to Methylisothiazolinone is to avoid it by reading product labels and using resources like the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to ensure your cleaning products are Methylisothiazolinone free.
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