Butylated Hydroxytoluene- BHT, and Butylated Hydroxyanisole- BHA are preservatives for oil containing products due to their antioxidant properties. BHA is generally used to keep fats from becoming rancid and BHT is used to prevent oxidative rancidity of fats. BHT has been used since 1949 and despite it being a known carcinogen, it is still used today.
These two closely related chemicals can still be found in many foods and personal care products like, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, personal ointments, meat, beer, butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, baked goods, snack foods, dehydrated potatoes, rice products, dried soup, food packaging, animal feed and rubber and petroleum products.
Why should we care that these two chemicals are used in our food and personal care products?
Based on animal tests, a chemical that causes cancer in at least one organ in three different species indicates that it might be carcinogenic in humans. BHT has caused various disorders in animals such as cancer, reduced body weight, increased blood cholesterol levels, and it has been linked to birth defects in rats. That is why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers BHA to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration still permits BHA to be used in foods. Japan has banned the use of BHT and BHA and the U.K. and several European countries have severely restricted its use all citing considerable safety risks.
Are they really necessary?
These synthetic chemicals can be replaced by safer chemicals and/or better quality oils (e.g vitamin E, olive oil, argan oil). We know these ingredients are not necessary as many brands of food and personal care do not use them…. and for good reason.