Synthetic dyes are used in hand hygiene products to offer an attractive color or to alter the color of a product deemed unattractive by manufacturers. It is estimated that there exist upwards of 1,200 different dyes used to color household products, the majority of which are known irritants or even toxins. Outlined here are a few important things for institutional purchasers to consider when selecting a hand hygiene product:
Risks of Synthetic Dyes:
Petroleum and Coal Tar Dyes: The bulk of colorants used in personal care products are chemically derived from either petroleum or coal tars. Most common are dyes made from petroleum. These products often contain benzidine, a known carcinogen, and can be highly toxic. Though slightly less common, there also exist many products that make use of dyes derived from “coal tar”. Coal tar is a carcinogenic liquid or semi-liquid that is obtained from bituminous coal and often contains a number of toxins, including benzene, xylene, naphthalene, phenol, and creosol. Most petroleum and coal tar-derived dyes are known irritants and allergens, and dyes in each category have been linked to severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, nausea, and even cancer.
Red Dyes: Certain red colors alone have been shown to, among other things, be highly carcinogenic and mutagenic, cause thyroid tumors in animals, and cause cancer in humans. Red dyes are most often found in inexpensive pink-colored soaps, and their presence can pose a particular hazard to young children.
Environmental Hazards: Many dyes are in fact resistant to biodegradation. They therefore can be harmful even after they leave the hands of the user, as they become water pollutants and are highly toxic to aquatic life.
Benefits of Dyes in Hand Hygiene Products
The purpose of synthetic colorants in hygiene products is entirely aesthetic. Dyes are used only to make a product appear more attractive to the consumer, and they have no functional qualities. In an institutional setting the function of synthetic colorants is furthermore reduced, considering that product dispensers often conceal the product itself, making the color of little importance.
The B4 Brands Policy on Dyes
B4 Brands recognizes the severe risks of dyes in hand hygiene products. As a result, the company has instituted policies that place human and environmental health and safety as its top priority. In regards to dyes, the B4 Brands’ policy is as follows:
- Artificial dyes are strictly prohibited in any of B4 Brands’ products. The risks posed by dyes far outweigh any potential benefits, and therefore B4 Brands is proud to offer only products that are entirely free of colorants and the risks that accompany them
Summary: Choosing a Hand Hygiene Product
As has been shown, many synthetic dyes used in hand hygiene products contain irritants and toxins, and are an unnecessary risk to users and the environment. It is therefore recommended that artificial colorants be completely avoided when selecting a hand hygiene product for institutional use. This is of further importance if the product is intended for use in a setting, such as a school or medical center, where children or people with compromised immune systems will be exposed to the product. In a household setting, dyes may serve the minimal purpose of making a product more aesthetically attractive to the user. Yet in an institutional setting, color is of little importance.
Purchasers must account for the needs of all that will be exposed to a product, and should therefore seek products with the fewest inherent allergy and sensitivity risks. Purchasers should consult product labels to insure that absolutely no artificial colorants are included in a product and that allergy and sensitivity risks are being avoided.