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Int J Toxicol. 2001;20 Suppl 3:23-50.

Final report on the safety assessment of Benzyl Alcohol, Benzoic Acid, and Sodium Benzoate.

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Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, Washington, DC 20036, USA.


Benzyl Alcohol is an aromatic alcohol used in a wide variety of cosmetic formulations as a fragrance component, preservative, solvent, and viscosity-decreasing agent. Benzoic Acid is an aromatic acid used in a wide variety of cosmetics as a pH adjuster and preservative. Sodium Benzoate is the sodium salt of Benzoic Acid used as a preservative, also in a wide range of cosmetic product types. Benzyl Alcohol is metabolized to Benzoic Acid, which reacts with glycine and excreted as hippuric acid in the human body. Acceptable daily intakes were established by the World Health Organization at 5 mg/kg for Benzyl Alcohol, Benzoic Acid, and Sodium Benzoate. Benzoic Acid and Sodium Benzoate are generally recognized as safe in foods according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. No adverse effects of Benzyl Alcohol were seen in chronic exposure animal studies using rats and mice. Effects of Benzoic Acid and Sodium Benzoate in chronic exposure animal studies were limited to reduced feed intake and reduced growth. Some differences between control and Benzyl Alcohol-treated populations were noted in one reproductive toxicity study using mice, but these were limited to lower maternal body weights and decreased mean litter weights. Another study also noted that fetal weight was decreased compared to controls, but a third study showed no differences between control and Benzyl Alcohol-treated groups. Benzoic Acid was associated with an increased number of resorptions and malformations in hamsters, but there were no reproductive or developmental toxicty findings in studies using mice and rats exposed to Sodium Benzoate, and, likewise, Benzoic Acid was negative in two rat studies. Genotoxicity tests for these ingredients were mostly negative, but there were some assays that were positive. Carcinogenicity studies, however, were negative. Clinical data indicated that these ingredients can produce nonimmunologic contact urticaria and nonimmunologic immediate contact reactions, characterized by the appearance of wheals, erythema, and pruritus. In one study, 5% Benzyl Alcohol elicited a reaction, and in another study, 2% Benzoic Acid did likewise. Benzyl Alcohol, however, was not a sensitizer at 10%, nor was Benzoic Acid a sensitizer at 2%. Recognizing that the nonimmunologic reactions are strictly cutaneous, likely involving a cholinergic mechanism, it was concluded that these ingredients could be used safely at concentrations up to 5%, but that manufacturers should consider the nonimmunologic phenomena when using these ingredients in cosmetic formulations designed for infants and children. Additionally, Benzyl Alcohol was considered safe up to 10% for use in hair dyes. The limited body exposure, the duration of use, and the frequency of use were considered in concluding that the nonimmunologic reactions would not be a concern. Because of the wide variety of product types in which these ingredients may be used, it is likely that inhalation may be a route of exposure. The available safety tests are not considered sufficient to support the safety of these ingredients in formulations where inhalation is a route of exposure. Inhalation toxicity data are needed to complete the safety assessment of these ingredients where inhalation can occur.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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