EDTA, the abbreviation of Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, also known by several other names, is an aminopolycarboxylic acid and a colourless, water-soluble solid. EDTA is produced as several salts, mainly disodium EDTA and calcium disodium EDTA. The defining quality of EDTA is the ability to bind metal ions. It is widely used in personal care products as preservatives and foaming agent. EDTA is found in almost all skin care treatments including lotions, creams, body wash, soap, shampoos, and conditioners.
Applications of EDTA
In cosmetics and personal care products, EDTA salts are used as a sequestering agent to improve their stability in air. As a preservative it prevents deterioration of the product, protects the fragrance, and prevents rancidity (common in products whose ingredients include water). It combines with metals such as calcium, magnesium and iron to achieve foam or lather. EDTA also keeps metals from being deposited on your hair, skin and scalp.
In industry, EDTA is mainly used to sequester metal ions in aqueous solution. In the textile industry, it prevents metal ion impurities from modifying colors of dyed products. In the pulp and paper industry, EDTA inhibits the ability of metal ions, especially Mn2+, from catalyzing the disproportionation of hydrogen peroxide, which is used in "chlorine-free bleaching". In a similar manner, EDTA is added to some food as a preservative or stabilizer to prevent catalytic oxidative decoloration, which is catalyzed by metal ions. In soft drinks containing ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate, EDTA mitigates formation of benzene.
Is EDTA Safe?
Not only is this chemical known for getting the job done, it’s also been deemed safe by the FDA for food and cosmetic applications. That's right; it’s safe enough to eat! In reference to cosmetic and personal care applications, it is not a skin irritant or sensitizer, nor is it a carcinogen (won't cause cancer). It results in very little skin penetration, so if found in your blood stream, it’s only in trace amounts.