Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol or PG is a colorless, odorless liquid that is formed from a derivative of natural gas. Many of you may have not heard of this product before, but I bet that you either use or possibly eat something made from it.

What is made from Propylene Glycol?

Before I get into what exactly this compound is, I thought I would share with you some of the products that it is used in. Some of the typical products that you may have found PG in include:

  • Cosmetics
  • Deodorants
  • Lotions
  • Shampoos
  • Toothpaste
  • Processed Foods
  • Pet foods
  • Food Coloring Solvent

These products all are either applied to our bodies or consumed by either us or our pets, so this stuff must be safe, right? Well, I want to further list some of the common products that also contain propylene glycol that may make you want to check every ingredient label you use:

  • Anti-freeze
  • De-icers
  • Cooling Agent
  • Engine Coolant
  • Paintball
  • Floor Wax
  • Pest Killing and Preserving Agent
  • Cigarettes

Why is use Propylene Glycol?

Why are so many products that we use so often made from this stuff? Well, the main reason that it is used is to retain moisture so that they don’t dry out. It makes sense that many of the products listed require that they retain their moisture for longer and better use. That’s why some lotions are able to stay in a more moist state instead of drying out quickly. In some of the other instances like anti-freeze, it actually reduces the freezing point of water in particular pipes so that they don’t freeze and break.

Is it Safe?

The FDA actually has said that propylene glycol is “generally recognized as safe” to be used as a food additive in human foods and most pet foods. Even though there were regulations in 1995 to end its use in cat food, it is considered still “safe” in all other pet foods. It’s not a good sign that the FDA outlawed its use in cat food, yet they still allow humans and other types of animals to still consume it. Just from the fact that they don’t allow cats to eat this stuff, I will make sure that nothing I eat has PG in it. This is the problem with having too many processed foods. Foods that would dry out really quickly need products like PG added to it to maintain a moist state.

Propylene glycol can have a variety of potential health risk in both food and external applications such as lotion and deodorant. It can cause serious skin conditions in some people, especially those that have eczema. It can cause intestinal and lung irritation if ingested or inhaled. It does depend on the how concentrated the amount is that you are exposed to as to how severe the symptoms are.

My biggest concern with PG is that there does not seem to have been enough studies done on it considering that it is used in so many products we use. I would just use caution when using or eating something with PG in it. Check all labels and see if it contains PG and try to avoid it at all costs. Try to use comparable products with safer ingredients or more natural products that do not require such ingredients in them.

Other Names

There are other names to watch out for when checking labels. They include:

  • Propylene glycol UPS/EP – Pharmaceutical grade used in health sensitive applications as a food agent.
  • Ethylene glycol – Similar product but much more dangerous and extremely toxic.
  • Methyl glycol
  • Methylethyl glycolp
  • Monopropylene glycol
  • Polypropylene glycol
  • Trimethyl glycol
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  1. Excellent information! It is amazing what goes into processed foods. I should say … shocking! Thank you for pointing out some of the products that contain propylene glycol!

    BTW … I hope you will be observing Earth Hour 2009. It’s going to be a wonderful, global effort!

    Small Footprints

    • Pays to Live Green
    • March 11th, 2009

    I will definitely be observing Earth Hour :) I will be sending out a reminder in a week or so to make sure everybody knows about it.

  2. Well, I work for an industrial magazine and I thought that provided MOG has the USP grade(United States Pharmacopeia) there was no danger for the health. As many other chemicals, it is safe if it’s composition is properly controlled. Please tell me if i’m wrong, but several experts have informed me about that.

  3. Well, I work for an industrial magazine and I thought that provided MPG has the USP grade(United States Pharmacopeia) there was no danger for the health. As many other chemicals, it is safe if it’s composition is properly controlled. Please tell me if i’m wrong, but several experts have informed me about that.

    • Pays to Live Green
    • March 26th, 2009

    I have heard similar things, but I am still reluctant to use products like PG. Products like Propylene Glycol are only really necessary in products that need to be preserved or thickened. If we move towards getting foods fresh and stop eating so many package and processed foods, there little need for foods like PG.

    • cledwards
    • September 27th, 2009

    The sleuth

    Thank you for info. I am very much aware of the unhealthy ingredients that are used in comestics AND foods we consume. For instance, ACESULFAME-K used in diet sodas. Inadvertently, picked up a diet soda about two weeks ago, opened it, after drinking some of the soda I realized something was not right…looked at the bottle… next, read the nutritional facts and ingredients… I began to feel a slight headache, I knew something was wrong. I has an allergic reaction to “ACESULFAME-K”. This is a sweetner approved by the FDA in 1998. Also, found in baked goods, chewing gum, and so forth. However, I look out for ALL the bad ingredients. WOW!


    • Ed
    • December 8th, 2009

    It’s amazing how uninformed people on the internet spew out facts without doing any research into what they are talking about… and by research i dont mean just picking quotes and facts that suit them…. im all for investigation but numpties online with little information just give people like the FDA a reason to laugh and point

    • bec
    • February 7th, 2010

    I understand MPG is especially toxic to cats only. Thats why the FDA pulled it’s use in catfood.
    Lab tests have shown that continued feed of MPG in rats found no toxemia.
    I’m sitting here with a bottle of propolis 50% that’s stabilised in MPG. Purchased from a health food shop one presumes everyting is safe.(got it for my cat who has a cold) It concerns me that slighty ‘dodgy’ ingredients are used when there are other alternatives out there that are non-toxic.
    General rule of thumb – if you can’t pronounce it don’t eat it or smother it on your skin!!
    (What;s the guessing the shop won’t give me a refund for this bottle) Ha!!

    • Tim
    • November 20th, 2010

    Ethylene Glycol is a different formula and is not associated with PG at all. It’s carbon and hydrogen binding is at a different level. If your aim is to make PG, then that’s what you get… not EG. Just wanted to help clear that up, because there’s way too much misinformation floating around out there and it causes people to get confused.

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