As you can see from the title of the this post this chemical has quite a long name. Most often you will see it listed at Calcium Disodium EDTA, Disodium EDTA, or just EDTA. It can also be listed as Diammonium EDTA, Dipotassium EDTA, TEA-EDTA, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tripotassium EDTA and Trisodium EDTA (well, there are many others, but I won’t list them all). Whew! So what does this crazy sounding chemical do?
EDTA is a chelation agent, meaning that it binds with heavy metals and deactivates them (one reason it’s used in hospitals for conditions such as mercury or lead poisoning). It’s used as a preservative in food because it prevents food from spoiling by adding oxygen to the molecular structure of the food. Sounds appetizing!
Do you want to know what this chemical is made of? Sure you do. It is primarily synthesised from ethylenediamine, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. You heard me right. Don’t believe me? Look it up (or click on the hyperlink in the previous sentence).
This lovely chemical is found in many foods such as: canned beans, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and even Papa Murphy’s garlic sauce (don’t even get me started on that toxic chemical dump sauce which also includes BHA and sodium benzoate).
EDTA is also found in most personal care products: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower gel, etc. This additive increases foaming, prolongs shelf life, and helps with skin penetration (making it easier for other chemicals to get to your bloodstream). Please be aware that many companies will advertise products as “all natural” and use Tetrasodium EDTA instead of parabens. Um. They are both equally bad in my opinion. Avoid them both.
According to answers.com EDTA “has been found to be both cytotoxic and weakly genotoxic in laboratory animals. Oral exposures have been noted to cause reproductive and developmental effects.” If you look up the MSDS for EDTA you’ll see that it says:
“Potential Chronic Health Effects: CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Not available. The substance may be toxic to upper respiratory tract, skin, eyes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.”
So fantastic that the FDA (as far as I know) has not done enough research on links to birth defects, cancer, or reproductive problems. The MSDS actually says, “The toxicological properties of this substance have not been fully investigated.” Do you want to be the guinea pig?
OH! And lastly, EDTA is also an organic pollutant. It breaks down into Diketopiperazine. So it’s bad for your body AND bad for the environment. Double whammy!!
Now that you know the details on what this preservative does, look for ways to avoid it. There are many food items and products out there that do not contain EDTA. Just continue to read your labels. 🙂