Dimethylol dimethyl hydantoin (DMDM hydantoin), is a common preservative ingredient found in cosmetics production, construction materials, and household products. The chemical compound is typically added to products in minute quantities as an antimicrobial agent. Certain consumer advocates fear that when combined with other chemicals, the substance may cause cancer. Some individuals may develop skin irritations while using topical products containing this chemical formulation.
Other names for the compound include 1,2-demithylol-5,5 dimethyl hydantoin and dimethyl-2,4-imidazolidinedione. DMDM hydantoin is generally an organic compound that prevents bacterial, fungal, and viral development. By regulation standards, products usually contain only 0.1% to 0.6% of the substance. Different physical forms of the compound include a colorless liquid, a crystalline powder, or white to grey colored flakes. The compound consists of dimethyl hydantoin and formaldehyde.
Common cosmetic products containing DMDM hydantoin include hair conditioners, gels, and shampoos. Manufacturers also frequently use the substance in cream and lotion-type skin care products. Many industries incorporate the compound for its fungal and mold resistant properties. The substance might accompany ingredients used for adhesives, inks, and latex paints. Herbicides, paper, and photography supplies commonly contain this ingredient.
In addition to DMDM hydantoin, some cosmetic compounds may contain dimethicone, methylparaben, and formaldehyde. Dimethicone is an oily emollient used for skin softening. Methylparaben and formaldehyde are also antimicrobial preservatives. Formaldehyde, or CH2O, is a known carcinogen. Other names for the chemical are formalin, methyl aldehyde, morbicid acid, and oxymethylene.
DMDM hydantoin, and similar substances that include diazolidynyl urea and quarternium-15, draw concern from consumer protection specialists because they have the ability to release formaldehyde. Advocates believe this reaction occurs continuously and slowly, regardless of environmental factors. The formaldehyde then reverts into a pungent, harmful gas. Industrialists claim that formaldehyde release only occurs when ingredients undergo high temperature exposure. Federal regulatory agencies limit the amount of formaldehyde releasing agents products may contain, but environmentalists argue that there are no limitations on these potentially harmful chemical reactions.
Some individuals develop allergic skin reactions when exposed to this preservative. These irritations typically appear as eczema or contact dermatitis. The chemical substance is generally easily removed from the skin by washing with soap and water. Health care providers suggest that once irritation occurs, individuals abstain from using products containing this ingredient. DMDM hydantoin is known to possess irritant properties and chemical workers can develop eye, skin, and lung irritations when working with the substance in large quantities.