The likelihood that carcinogens produced and released during the production of PEGs would find their way into your shampoo bottle is very small, if not non-existent, say the experts. But one of the good things about clean beauty and the increasing focus on the environment is that retailers and customers are becoming more aware of how certain ingredients could be putting the health of those who manufacture them at risk.
And this is one of the concerns with PEGs. Carcinogens like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane released during the manufacturing process could be potentially damaging to the health of the workers who might come into contact with them. Even if the amounts released are small, this can be offset by the cumulative effect of hours and hours spent at their jobs, explained Dr. Bowe.
Short contact with ethylene oxide has been linked to respiratory issues, lung injury, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and vomiting, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. There is also a risk of cancer and reproductive issues with chronic exposure to ethylene oxide. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry notes that acute exposure to 1,4-dioxane can cause skin, throat, nose, and eye irritation. More research on PEGs might bring up articles that claim they are harmful to the environment. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support this claim.