Tetrasodium EDTA

What is Tetrasodium EDTA?

Tetrasodium EDTA, or Ethylenediaminetetraacetc Acid is water soluble chemical that is used for chelation in cosmetics because it allows metals to work properly in product formulas without reacting negatively with other ingredients. This makes soaps and lotions smooth by binding chemicals together and not allowing metal ions to disturb the way products work. It is made from sodium cyanide and formaldehyde. The way Tetrasodium EDTA is considered suspect by many skincare agents. However, the compound is not considered a carcinogen. The World Health Organisation has also listed the compound as one of the most important in modern medicine today. It was first named in 1935 and has been used in hygiene products consistently since then.


Tetrasodium EDTA has been found to work best in products that contain alkaline metals. Soaps most frequently contain such metals and tetrasodium EDTA helps soaps lather better and foam properly. When products containing the compound interact with water, tetrasodium EDTA forms complexes with iron, calcium, and magnesium to prevent metals from absorbing into the skin. The compound also softens water. The FDA has approved of the compound as long as it abides by certain limits. Tetrasodium EDTA also helps prevent the growth of fungi and mould in cosmetic products, protect fragrances used in such products, stay clear, and work properly in hard water. It is found in personal care and hygiene products, soaps, lotions, cosmetics, hair dyes and bleaches, shampoos, conditioners, and bath soaps.

In some alternative medicine circles, the compound is thought to treat atherosclerosis. More research must be conducted to test whether or not this is the case. Manufacturers recommend using only 0.1% tetrasodium EDTA in their formulas to ensure a longer shelf life.


Known carcinogens are used to make tetrasodium EDTA—formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. Studies have shown the compound can make the skin’s protective barrier more fragile. This could cause other harmful chemicals to absorb into the skin and even other bodily systems. Lab specimens have however not been found to develop cancer after exposure to tetrasodium EDTA. People with sensitive skin have, in rare cases, reported incidents of eczema development when using a product containing tetrasodium EDTA. When exposed to tetrasodium EDTA at high levels, lab specimens have developed skin irritations that could represent any risks posed to humans who use products with this ingredient. When given to lab specimens orally, tetrasodium EDTA has caused negative reproductive and developmental reactions.

Those with sensitive skin may react negatively to tetrasodium EDTA and may even display allergy symptoms such as irritation, rashes, and inflammation. It is important to consult with a qualified physician about how to use products containing the compound or about alternative products to use for skincare needs. Dioxane, also a known carcinogen, is a by-product of the manufacturing process for tetrasodium EDTA. This ingredient does not degrade easily, raising environmental concerns.

Tetrasodium EDTA can irritate the eyes. The compound is labeled in some cosmetic products as TEA-EDTA, tetrasodium salt, edetate sodium, and tetrasodium edetate.

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