Hyderabad: Imported and cheap wet wipes have chemical preservatives like methyl chloroisothiazoline and methylisothiazoline, according to random tests carried out in the Indian market by EcoWaste Coalition. These wet wipes were found to cause allergic reactions and rashes in sensitive skin when used regularly. The chemicals sensitise the skin causing burning, itching, red rashes and even blisters.
Some children were found to cry constantly when these wipes were used regularly. When used to wipe the face, they caused severe irritation and the face turned red after exposure to the sun. The samples were randomly picked up from various markets in southeast Asia and Asian countries where these imported products are in great demand. These are sold in wholesale bazaars along with baby, sanitary and cosmetic products.
Most of these were found to be cheap products and not under regulatory control.
The Drug Control Authority has stated that brands which are manufactured in India are regulated under schedule S of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and meet the standards set by BIS. But there are cheap, unbranded and wet wipes sold loose which must be checked for these two chemicals.
Dr Radha Shah, consultant dermatologist at Apollo Hospitals, explained, “MCI and MIT are used in rinse-off cosmetic products but they can’t be used in products which leave their impact on the skin. According to the Association of southeast asian nations and European Union, these are banned in products which are absorbed by the skin or have direct skin contact for a long time.” Dr Shah said these chemicals are found to cause allergic reactions in sensitive skin below the skin folds and lead to severe itching and burning sensation. “Frequent usage of wet wipes is found in affluent classes as it is convenient but they must check the products before opting for them,” she said.
The wet wipes market in India has grown from 8 per cent in 2012 to 15.3 per cent in 2018. Dr Chetan R. Mundada, senior paediatrician at Yashoda Hospitals, explained, “The presence of these chemicals in personal products not only causes allergic reactions but is also found to cause lung toxicity and neurotoxicity. Higher and frequent usage of chemical based products is found to cause adverse reactions. Few cases are reported to hospitals. “It is important to exercise caution and check labels before opting for personal care products,” the doctor added.
It’s better to be safe than sorry: Doctors
It is very important to use standard quality products and avoid cheap ones, state experts, as the harmful effects of wet wipes are not known to the public. Dr Arshad Punjani, senior consultant physician at Apollo Hospitals, said, “Only a few people read labels; hence, till there is a problem, there is not much hue and cry raised.” He said long-term effects of lung toxicity and neurotoxicity are suspected in these products but there is limited research pinpointing the cause to wet wipes.
“Yet, caution is important for those who use these personal products regularly. Using quality standard products and checking for chemicals is very important and if there is any reaction, the use of the product must be stopped,” Dr Punjani said.
Wherever possible, use of soap and water or dry tissues is recommended as they do not have any chemicals. For those who are bedridden, there are specific medical products that are available and only those must be used. Experts state that though they are costly, products with chemical reactants can be avoided. Products which are gentle on skin are preferable and those which lead to absorption of chemicals can prove harmful in the long run.