Hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) is derived from starch as a thickening and gelling agent, used in detergency too. Since it is of natural origin, it may seem safe for any use… instead we think differently. The first reason why it does not comply with Bensos’ Criteria is its slow biodegradation, as it does not fulfill OECD Test A-F. So, when it is dissolved in wastewater, it accumulates in the environment as natural bacteria cannot degrade it quickly enough.
Scientific libraries show concerning data about reproductive toxicity and teratogenicity (toxicity to the foetus) vs. mammals, by intraperitoneal route; so this ingredient does not comply with Bensos’ Criteria for long-term toxicity too.
Hydroxyethylcellulose is diffusely used in petroleum industry, as thickening and stabilizing agent in coating and in various other products, as additive for textile industry, for paper mills, for construction industry and for agriculture. In detergency it is an ingredient for tablets and gel products; in cosmetics, it thickens body detergents and toothpastes; in pharmaceutical, it is a common ingredient in ophtalmic solutions, products for gynecological use and solutions for injection. In U.S. 2012, HEC production was approximately 250-500 tons, some of which was an ingredient of rinsable products, so it was washed away to the environment.