It’s a toxic compound found in plastics and is one of the leading causes of cancer in humans and animals.
Now, the chemical, which is used in many products, is getting a new name — polyethylenes.
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a draft rule that will require manufacturers to label polyethylensils as “safe” when they’re used in foods and cosmetics, such as nail polish, nail-care products and toothpaste.
The agency has also called for the use of more precise labeling for the material, which can’t be found in most existing food packaging.
The rule also calls for better use of “safe,” meaning it won’t cause cancer.
But the agency’s draft also contains a number of other safety recommendations, including a recommendation to include the material in a list of products that aren’t meant to be eaten or absorbed, which means they should be labeled as “food safe.”
In the draft, the EPA also includes a warning that “the use of polypropylene polyethylate may cause some adverse effects.”
The agency also wants manufacturers to “ensure that there is no overlap between the labeling of polyethoxylated polyethyleneglycols (PEGPs) and the labeling on their packaging,” and “that they include the information that the product is not meant to eat.”
The draft also says manufacturers can’t use the term “polyethoxylethanolamine” or “polyethylenes” in packaging, saying it would “create confusion” with polyethylendimonium chloride, a commonly used compound that’s also a toxic byproduct of plasticizers.
In the agency guidelines, the agency says the term should be “consistent with other common chemicals.”
The Environmental Defense Fund says it will sue the EPA if the agency doesn’t follow through on its draft rules, arguing that the agency hasn’t provided enough time for public comment on the proposal.
The EPA said it expects to submit the final rule to Congress by January.
The draft is based on a proposed rule that would require manufacturers of foods and beverages to use a common label for polyethylenic polyethyloxylates, including polyethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (PEAA), which is often used in cleaning products and in the manufacture of certain cosmetics.
The new rule would also require manufacturers with manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to label their products “possible human carcinogen.”
The EPA also wants to make clear that polyethyleners, which have a low melting point and are difficult to absorb, are generally not safe for consumption.
The U.K. government’s Institute of Medicine said that “an extensive review” of the evidence “found no conclusive evidence of a carcinogenic effect from exposure to polyethylenzymethanes” — including polystyrene, polypropylene, polyethylacrylonitrile and polyethylpropylene — “and that the safety profile of polyglycolates was consistent with what is found in food products and cosmetic products.”
The IOM said that although polyethylencene has been linked to cancer, the evidence supporting its potential health effects is limited and not yet established.
“It’s not clear that we have enough data to draw conclusions that polyglycine exposure is a cause of cancer, so it would be prudent to err on the side of caution,” said the IOM’s director, David Walker.
The Iomm also said that polyethoxyethylene (PE) and polyethylene (PEO) are “likely carcinogens” and that “polystyrene is a known carcinogen in humans.”
“The IOM is calling on the U and European Union to follow the lead of the U to require labels on the contents of all food and cosmetics made with polyethylester, and for them to allow for the labeling and labeling of all products containing polyethylenergies,” the agency said in a statement.
“We will also call on the World Health Organization and the United Nations to do the same.”