Diethanolamine.

Also known as DEA. It is commonly used in detergents, oven cleaners, cosmetics, shampoos, lotions and creams. It is a 'wetting agent' and helps provide a rich lather in soaps and shampoos. It also provides a uniform consistency in creams and lotions.

Mild exposure to DEA alone may be nothing more than an irritant. This does not include eye contact. It can be extremely harmful to the eyes, causing corneal necrosis in extreme cases. Increased exposure can irritate the nose and throat. It also may cause headaches, nausea and vomiting. The New Jersey Department Of Health indicates that DEA may cause liver and kidney damage.

The Cancer Prevention Coalition indicates that DEA's may react with certain ingredients in cosmetics to form a potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). They claim that NDEA is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers.