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BHA — toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 by

BHA is the recognized name in the cosmetics industry for butyl hydroxyanisole. It is used in a wide range of cosmetic formulations as an antioxidant at concentrations from 0.002 percent to 0.5 percent. It is also known as Embanox, Protex, Antioxyne B, Tenox BHA, and Tert-Butyl-4-methoxyphenol.

BHA, which has the chemical formula of C22H32O4, is also used as an antioxidant in foods and pharmaceuticals. It is a white, waxy solid mixture with a slightly aromatic odor. It preserves fats and oils and is freely soluble in alcohol, chloroform, ether, petroleum ether, and propylene glycol. When you heat BHA to the point that it would disintegrate, it gives off acrid and irritating fumes.

This is how BHA works as an antioxidant in foods or cosmetics. When fats and oils in food are exposed to the air, oxidation – the same principle that causes cars or any other metal to rust – transpires, causing kinks in the fats and oils’ long chains, and ultimately, causing the food to become toxic and smell foul. When fatty or oily foods are treated with BHA, they last longer and taste better.

The United States Food and Drug Administration classifies it under the label “generally recognized as safe”.

List of known side effects

BHA is a mild skin irritant and a moderate skin sensitizer. Also, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel stated that oral exposure to BHA was connected with toxic effects.

BHA is deemed to be a human carcinogen, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is associated with estrogen-induced breast carcinogenesis.

BHA is dangerous if swallowed and if it comes into contact with your eyes. It is also very harmful to aquatic life.

Body systems affected by BHA

BHA is bad for the excretory system. Short-term albeit repeated exposure to it resulted in hepatic toxic effects to male and female rats in one study. It also produced increased liver weight, which is usually indicative of an infection or a much more serious problem, and decreased activity of several hepatic enzymes.

BHA is bad for the respiratory system. It can cause pulmonary adenomas and respiratory tract irritation in animals.

BHA is bad for the immune system. It can inhibit the humoral immune response in animals.

BHA is bad for the ocular system. It can cause serious eye damage.

Items that can contain BHA

Food items that may contain BHA include baked goods, beer, non-alcoholic beverages, butter, cereal, chewing gum, dessert mixes, dry beverage, hard candy, instant mashed potatoes, lard, preserved meat, processed vegetables, potato chips, among others. It can also be found in rubber, petroleum products, and wax food packaging.

How to avoid BHA

Use personal protective equipment and clothing when handling. Avoid breathing in its vapors or gas so you should always wear a mask when the chemical is present in the room. Prevent leaks or spills; do not let it seep into drains.

Also, when purchasing food items, read product labels carefully and ttry to avoid buying food items that have BHA in them. To be sure about the ingredients that you put into your food, cook your meals at home. For instance, boiling your own potatoes to make mashed potatoes is a surefire way to ensure that your potato is BHA-free, as compared with using store-bought boxed mashed potato flakes.

Where to learn more


BHA is bad for the respiratory, immune, ocular, and excretory systems.

BHA works as an antioxidant in foods or cosmetics.

The United States Food and Drug Administration classifies it under the label “generally recognized as safe”.

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