June 09, 2014
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Five things to know about cocamide DEA in personal care products

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A legal agreement has been reached between some shampoo, lotion and other personal care products manufacturers to remove cocamide DEA from their products. The chemical, however, has not been banned, and more than 100 other companies have not yet resolved litigation brought by the Center for Environmental Health, a consumer advocacy group.

What does this mean for consumers and patients concerned about exposure?

1. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists cocamide DEA (coconut oil diethanolamine condensate) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen. In a report, IARC researchers wrote, “There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of coconut oil diethanolamine condensate.”

2. Cocamide DEA is surfactant made by chemically altering the chemical composition of certain fatty acids in coconut oil with diethanolamine. The result is a viscous, amber-colored liquid used as a foaming agent and emulsifier.

3. According to the IARC, study results are mixed, and human studies are unavailable. IARC’s cocamide DEA product description outlines several studies the organization used to assess the chemical. Results included increased incidence of hepatocellular adenoma, hepatocellular carcinoma or hepatoblastoma, renal tubular adenoma and/or carcinoma combined in mice, but no effects in rats.

4. As of May 13, 26 companies agreed to pull the chemical from their products, including Colgate-Palmolive, Walgreens, Saks and Lush Handmade Cosmetics.

5. In 2012, California identified cocamide DEA as a cancer-causing substance and required manufacturers to either place warning statements on labels alerting consumers to its presence or to remove it from their products.