Benzisothiazolinone is an antimicrobial and preservative chemical used in a wide variety of applications, such as cleaning and building products. It may be in the form of a white to yellow powder or liquid. While many uses of the chemical are approved by the federal government, it can cause allergic reactions in some individuals and is considered an ingredient of concern by many healthy products sources.
Other Names for Benzisothiazolinone
- Synonyms: BIT; 1,2-Benzisothiazol-3(2H)-one, 1,2-Benzoisothiazolin-3-one, Benzoisothiazolin-3-one
- Trade names: IPX, Proxan, Proxel, Proxel PL, Nipacide BIT, Mergal BIT
- Chemical formula: C7H5NOS (See the Chemistry Structures Index for more information.)
Benzisothiazolinone is used in many types of cleaning products, including laundry detergents, air fresheners, fabric softeners, stain removers, dish detergents, stainless steel cleaners, and more. It is used at a rate of 0.10 percent to 0.30 percent (by weight) when added to laundry and household cleaning products, according to the EPA document, "Registration Eligibility Decision (RED) for Benzisothiazoline-3-one." Also, it is important to point out that benzisothiazolinone is often used in many cleaning products in conjunction with methylisothiazolinone, a synthetic preservative that has raised some health concerns.
In addition to cleaning products, benzisothiazolinone has a wide range of other applications. It can be found in flea and tick treatments, paints, stains, car care products, textile solutions, metalworking fluids, oil recovery fluids, leather processing chemicals, pesticides, and paper mill systems. It is also used in building products, such as adhesives, caulks, sealants, grouts, spackle, and wallboard. In addition, benzisothiazolinone is commonly used in personal care products, like sunscreen and liquid hand soap, and as an inert ingredient on crops, such as blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, and more.
Product Brands Containing Benzisothiazolinone
There are three public sources for updated lists of products containing benzisothiazolinone:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Household Products Database
- Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning
- Skin Deep Cosmetic Database (EWG)
When benzisothiazolinone is used in personal care preparations or applications that come into contact with food, it is monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For other uses, such as pesticides and cleaning products, it is monitored by the EPA.
Health and Safety
In 2005, benzisothiazolinone underwent a review process by the EPA to determine its reregistration eligibility for use in a range of products and applications. After considering the overall information on its toxicity, uses, and environmental effects, the EPA concluded that it posed no harm to the population. However, that doesn't mean no health effects were found at all.
In the report, the EPA did note that it can be irritating to the skin and eyes and act as a dermal sensitizer. So, considering that it can be used in laundry products and in personal care products that come into contact with the skin, this is something to consider.
Also, the EPA found that the amount of benzisothiazolinone being used in flea and tick products was a concern for children, so it specified a limited allowable amount in those products.
This chemical quickly biodegrades and there is "minimal environmental exposure" according to the EPA in its 2005 review of the chemical. However, the EPA also notes that there is evidence for benzisothiazolinone being toxic to aquatic life when it is used in oil-recovery fluids. This indicates that some applications for this chemical should be restricted or prohibited.
There are plenty of green products that don't use benzisothiazolinone as a preservative or antimicrobial. This may be the best option if you are concerned about the potential for allergy interactions or other health or environmental effects. Good Guide is one source for identifying green products that do not contain benzisothiazolinone or other potentially harmful chemicals. Carefully read ingredient labels and product reviews to ensure you know what you're getting.