Stearic Acid — toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Saturday, November 11, 2017 by

Stearic acid is a white, waxy natural acid that can be found in animal and vegetable fats. Even though it occurs naturally, it still has to undergo a hydrogenation process to convert it to the end product and be sold as stearic acid in the market. Hydrogenation is a process wherein liquid vegetable oils are converted to solid or semi-solid fats. This chemical is also known as octadecanoic acid and is one of the most common long-chain fatty acids. It is used as an emulsifier and emollient. Moreover, it is used as a base for the production of other fatty acids. Stearic acid is known to provide a pearly or waxy feel and cooling effect in skin care products.

Stearic acid sold in the market is a combination of approximately equal amounts of stearic and palmitic acids and little amounts of oleic acid. Pure stearic acid can be hard to obtain by crystallization, vacuum distillation, or chromatography of the acids or suitable derivatives.

Stearic acid occurs mainly as a mixed triglyceride, or fat, together with other long-chain acids and as an ester of a fatty alcohol. It is more abundant in animal fat than in vegetable fat. Stearic acid has the molecular formula of C18H36O2.

List of known side effects

Although generally considered safe, stearic acid has been reported to cause several side effects in humans. It can cause skin irritations with symptoms of severe itching, redness, and swelling. It may also cause rash-like symptoms similar to tiny red spots. It can also make the skin sensitive to substances and direct exposure to the sun. Furthermore, it may cause hive-like spots in the skin which often lead to blisters that can damage the skin. There are certain cases in which stearic acid caused the skin to turn scaly.

Stearic acid can be harmful to the environment, particularly the aquatic environment, as it can harm aquatic life with long lasting effects.

Body systems affected by stearic acid

There are several body systems affected by stearic acid. One of these is the digestive system as consuming products that contain stearic acid can make absorption of essential nutrients needed by the body difficult. Another body system that can be adversely affected by stearic acid is the immune system. Consuming large amounts of stearic acid can damage and weaken the immune system. The chemical can also harm the integumentary system as it may irritate the skin. Moreover, the ocular system can also be affected by the chemical because it can cause serious eye damage or eye irritation. When inhaled, it can be detrimental to the respiratory system as it can cause respiratory tract irritation.

Items that can contain stearic acid

Stearic acid can be present in the production of products such as plastics, wax oil crayon, rubber softeners, candles, shaving soaps,detergents, lubricants, and dietary supplements. It can also be found in personal care products, such as soaps, shampoos, lotions, and conditioners.

How to avoid stearic acid

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a few ways on how to avoid stearic acid. Dispersion of dust particles of stearic acid should be prevented. To avoid inhalation of the chemical, there must be a local exhaust or proper ventilation in the area. Using protective gloves and clothing is also a way to prevent skin contact with stearic acid. Another way to avoid getting the chemical in contact with the eyes is to use safety goggles. To avoid ingesting the chemical, just simply do not eat, drink, or smoke during work.

Where to learn more

Summary

Stearic acid is a white, waxy natural acid that can be found in animal and vegetable fats. It is used as an emulsifier and emollient.

Stearic acid can cause skin irritations with symptoms of severe itching, redness, and swelling, and rash-like symptoms similar to tiny red spots.

Stearic acid can also make the skin sensitive to substances and direct exposure to the sun.

Stearic acid cause hive-like spots in the skin which often lead to blisters that can damage the skin.

Stearic acid can be harmful to the environment, particularly the aquatic environment.

Stearic acid can be hazardous to the digestive, immune, integumentary, ocular, and respiratory systems.

Sources include:

MountainRoseHerbs.com

Britannica.com

Tandurust.com

PubChem.NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov

CDC.gov



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