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DMDM Hydantoin – toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Friday, December 08, 2017 by

DMDM Hydantoin is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent found in cosmetics and personal care products. It is effective against fungi, yeast and bacteria in cosmetic formulations, and acts as a preservative to help hold formulas together and prolong their shelf life. DMDM hydantoin is similar to imidazolidinyl urea – they both release formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Since formaldehyde is a known toxin, many companies mask their ingredients list with DMDM hydantoin and imidazolidinyl urea. Mention of DMDM hydantoin is required in products containing at least 0.5 percent of the chemical. Preservative chemicals like DMDM hydantoin release small amounts of formaldehyde over time. According to the United States National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), formaldehyde, even in small amounts, can cause some serious health concerns.

Other names and synonyms of DMDM hydantoin include 1,3-bis(hydroxymethyl)-5,5-dimethylimidazolidine-2,4-dione; Glydant; dimethyloldimethylhydantoin; Dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin; 2,4-Imidazolidinedione, 1,3-bis(hydroxymethyl)-5,5-dimethyl-; CAS-6440-58-0; EC-229-222-8; and EPA Pesticide Chemical Code 115501.

List of known side effects

DMDM hydantoin may cause different side effects, depending on the route of exposure. Since it is a formaldehyde releaser, it may have the same side effects as formaldehyde poisoning.

Skin contact with DMDM hydantoin may result in irritation, itching, burning, scaling, eczema, reddening and blistering of the skin. Over time, allergic reactions to products with DMDM hydantoin may occur. It may also cause something as severe and lethal as skin cancer.

When inhaled, DMDM hydantoin poisoning may cause irritation in the eyes, nose and throat. It may also start a cold or flu-like decongestion, minor to major respiratory problems including asthma. Inner ear problems, ear infections, headaches are also possible when poisoned by DMDM hydantoin inhalation. Furthermore, DMDM hydantoin has been linked to chest pain, chronic fatigue, depression and insomnia.

Leukemia, or cancer of the blood cells, is associated with DMDM hydantoin poisoning through inhalation, dermal and ingestion routes of exposure. Formaldehyde, including formaldehyde-releasers, impair the immune system to the point that it cannot work properly to protect individuals.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) allows formaldehyde releasers in skin care and other beauty products, at levels no higher than 0.2 percent. While formaldehyde does not bioaccumulate, prolonged or repeated exposure to this chemical may be a risk for everyone using products that contain it.

Body systems affected by DMDM hydantoin

DMDM hydantoin may affect the skin, the respiratory system, the eyes, nose, ears and throat, and the central nervous system.

Items that may contain DMDM hydantoin

There are over 2,000 products registered in the U.S. containing DMDM hydantoin. Some of these products include Curel, DDF Organic, Huggies, Bumble & Bumble, Olay, Desert Essence, Eucerin, Irish Spring, Ivory and Dove.

Other products that may include DMDM hydantoin in their formulations are: shampoo, hair conditioners, hair products, hair dyes, body wash, bath products, sunscreen, hand lotion, facial moisturizers, anti-aging creams, baby wipes, baby soap, baby shampoo, makeup bases, foundations, nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue and other tinted cosmetics.

How to avoid DMDM hydantoin

Always read the label of the bath products and beauty products you are looking to buy or use. Make sure that it doesn’t contain DMDM hydantoin, or any of its synonyms as listed at the beginning of the article. If unavoidable, minimize use of products that contain this toxic chemical, or switch to other products that are more natural and less harmful to the body.

Where to learn more


DMDM hydantoin is similar to imidazolindinyl urea. They both release formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen and is toxic to humans.

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