You may have heard of the chemicals BHT or BHA; they stand for butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole, respectively. These two artificial preservatives are used to preserve fats and oils in foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, but they can also be found in rubber, jet fuel, petroleum products, the oil electrical transformers - and even embalming fluid. These compounds have been approved for usage by the Food and Drug Administration and are most commonly found in dog food and breakfast cereals.
According to the National Institute of Health, BHA in the diet has been found to consistently produce certain types of tumors in laboratory animals. BHA has been banned in the state of California and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has placed it on the "Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity" list.
BHA is also listed as a chemical of potential concern under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, because it has been found to be toxic to aquatic organisms and potential to bioaccumulate. The United Nations Environment Program also notes that BHT has a moderate to high potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic species.
A study on the use of BHT in cosmetics found that it penetrates the skin and has a number of effects on lab rats. Exposure to BHT caused renal and hepatic damage in rats in addition to producing increased liver weight, decreased activity of several hepatic enzymes, kidney effects, and toxic effects in lung tissue. BHT was also found to modify the genotoxicity of other agents. The abstract of the study concluded: "Although there were only limited studies that evaluated the effect of BHT on the skin, the available studies, along with the case literature, demonstrate no significant irritation, sensitization, or photosensitization. Recognizing the low concentration at which this ingredient is currently used in cosmetic formulations, it was concluded that BHT is safe as used in cosmetic formulations." So, despite all the possible risks associated with this chemical, it doesn't cause your skin to become significantly irritated or sensitive, so it must be safe to use.
The FDA carelessly approves these chemicals, assuming that they are safe at low doses. However, because there is evidence that this substance can bioaccumulate, there is no reason to assume that there will be no long-term adverse health effects. The items and foods that we, our loved ones, and our pets consume are still being poisoned by the very people that we're supposed to trust. Consumers should always be aware of these artificial preservatives, and instead look for healthier, natural ingredients to promote a long and happy life.