Learn about PHMB, its health risks and how to reduce your exposure.

About PHMB

Poly(hexamethylenebiguanide), or PHMB, may also be called:

PHMB does not occur naturally in the environment. It's found in a wide range of products available to consumers. For example, it's used as an antimicrobial agent or preservative in:

It may also be used as an antiseptic, sanitizer or deodorizer in:

It may also be found in food if the food preparation surface has been treated with sanitizers and disinfectants that contain PHMB.

Safety of PHMB

Under Canada's Chemicals Management Plan, we review and manage the potential risks that chemical substances can pose to Canadians and the environment. We have recently completed our final chemical risk assessment for PHMB.

Our final assessment concluded that PHMB is harmful to human health when inhaled or when applied to the skin in high concentrations.

Inhaling products that contain PHMB and create mists, vapours or aerosols may affect lung function. PHMB may be released into the air when used in:

Cosmetics that have high concentrations of PHMB and are applied to the skin, such as body lotion, may also cause inflammation of the skin.

Exposure to PHMB from other sources is not harmful to human health since concentrations are very low and there is little risk of inhalation.

Our assessment has also concluded that PHMB is not harmful to the environment.

What we're doing to reduce your exposure to PHMB

We are taking measures to reduce your exposure to PHMB from cosmetic spray applications and cosmetic products applied to the skin, including body lotion.

To reduce your exposure to PHMB, we are:

PHMB is listed for topical use only as a preservative antimicrobial in the Natural Health Product Ingredient Database. When used as a non-medicinal ingredient in natural health products, it should be used at a maximum concentration of 0.1%. It is not permitted in sprayable formulations.

What you can do to reduce your exposure to PHMB

You are advised to:

If you're unsure if your product contains PHMB, contact the manufacturer.

If you're exposed to PHMB at work, talk to your employer and occupational health and safety (OHS) official about:

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