Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Rhonda Johansson
Propylene glycol is an organic, petroleum-based product mostly used by the plastics industry for preservation. It is the main ingredient in antifreeze. Propylene glycol can also be found in many engine-cooling liquids. Its usefulness stem from it having a low freezing point, being relatively involatile, and displaying low corrosive activity.
It can be easily assumed that such a material would not be present in everyday food items. However, many brands use propylene glycol in their products to maintain moisture and extend shelf-life. While seemingly harmless in low amounts, prolonged exposure to the chemical can cause several medical conditions.
Propylene glycol is also found in various pharmaceuticals and some sanitizing lotions.
The International Programme on Chemical Safety (INCHEM) warns that propylene glycol exposure can irritate the eyes and skin. Liquid-based solutions containing the chemical can cause burning or itching around the membranes of the eyes. Excessive exposure can additionally cause conjunctivitis, which is the inflammation and swelling of the inner surface of the eyelid.
Children who accidentally ingest the compound can experience impaired breathing. At its most dangerous, propylene glycol can prompt an anaphylactic shock. The compound irritates the inner lining of the throat and lungs, causing them to swell. In turn, patients will have difficulty breathing.
Even so, experts say that proper use of items that contain propylene glycol should not cause any detrimental effects.
Propylene glycol, nevertheless, should be avoided by pregnant women. The chemical can enter the body as an alcohol and metabolize in the body. Fetuses exposed to the by-product are at an increased risk of not developing properly. Because propylene glycol is a popular additive in some pharmaceuticals (including different antiviral solutions), moms-to-be should be very wary of any intravenous treatment they are given.
The compound harms all body systems. It serves no medical purpose and should be used with care. The amounts present in verified food products and pharmaceuticals should not cause any harm; but prolonged exposure may.
Propylene glycol is mostly known for its use in vehicle antifreeze. Still, many food manufacturers and pharmaceutical brands use it in their products to increase shelf-life and improve moisture. Exposure to the compound can cause internal and external irritation, along with severe allergies.
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