Chemicals to Avoid, Part 5: Nitrosamine Contamination

Numerous authorities link nitrosamines to cancer. They are listed as possible human carcinogens by the EPA, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the U.S. National Toxicology Program Report on Carcinogens and the California EPA Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. Several other databases cite strong to moderate evidence regarding the cancer-causing properties of nitrosamines. In addition, there is some evidence of endocrine disruption at very low doses. Studies have also linked nitrosamines to developmental or reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and systemic toxicity. Source

Nitrosamines are a group of compounds that are created in the presence of an amine (as in amino acid, protein, etc) and a nitrostating agent, such as nitrate.

Nitrosamines are a serious concern with meats preserved with nitrates and nitrites. As the body breaks down the amino acids in the presence of the preservative, the nitrate and the amino acids combine and create nitrosamines in the gut, causing, many sources suspect, colon and other internal cancers.

Nitrosamines are also a concern in personal care products. With these ingredients, nitrosamines are either created during the manufacturing of the chemical, or are created over time as the formula breaks down. Ingredients with nitrosamine contamination concerns include:

Cocamidopropyl betaine
Triethanolamine (TEA)
Diethanolamine (DEA)

More than 9800 cosmetic items on the market today contain ingredients that can be linked to nitrosamines. Click here for the full list on the EWG Cosmetics Database.