Final report on the safety assessment of aluminum silicate, calcium silicate, magnesium aluminum silicate, magnesium silicate, magnesium trisilicate, sodium magnesium silicate, zirconium silicate, attapulgite, bentonite, Fuller's earth, hectorite, kaolin, lithium magnesium silicate, lithium magnesium sodium silicate, montmorillonite, pyrophyllite, and zeolite

Int J Toxicol. 2003;22 Suppl 1:37-102.


This report reviews the safety of Aluminum, Calcium, Lithium Magnesium, Lithium Magnesium Sodium, Magnesium Aluminum, Magnesium, Sodium Magnesium, and Zirconium Silicates, Magnesium Trisilicate, Attapulgite, Bentonite, Fuller's Earth, Hectorite, Kaolin, Montmorillonite, Pyrophyllite, and Zeolite as used in cosmetic formulations. The common aspect of all these claylike ingredients is that they contain silicon, oxygen, and one or more metals. Many silicates occur naturally and are mined; yet others are produced synthetically. Typical cosmetic uses of silicates include abrasive, opacifying agent, viscosity-increasing agent, anticaking agent, emulsion stabilizer, binder, and suspending agent. Clay silicates (silicates containing water in their structure) primarily function as adsorbents, opacifiers, and viscosity-increasing agents. Pyrophyllite is also used as a colorant. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has ruled Attapulgite fibers >5 microm as possibly carcinogenic to humans, but fibers <5 microm were not classified as to their carcinogenicity to humans. Likewise, Clinoptilolite, Phillipsite, Mordenite, Nonfibrous Japanese Zeolite, and synthetic Zeolites were not classified as to their carcinogenicity to humans. These ingredients are not significantly toxic in oral acute or short-term oral or parenteral toxicity studies in animals. Inhalation toxicity, however, is readily demonstrated in animals. Particle size, fibrogenicity, concentration, and mineral composition had the greatest effect on toxicity. Larger particle size and longer and wider fibers cause more adverse effects. Magnesium Aluminum Silicate was a weak primary skin irritant in rabbits and had no cumulative skin irritation in guinea pigs. No gross effects were reported in any of these studies. Sodium Magnesium Silicate had no primary skin irritation in rabbits and had no cumulative skin irritation in guinea pigs. Hectorite was nonirritating to the skin of rabbits in a Draize primary skin irritation study. Magnesium Aluminum Silicate and Sodium Magnesium Silicate caused minimal eye irritation in a Draize eye irritation test. Bentonite caused severe iritis after injection into the anterior chamber of the eyes of rabbits and when injected intralamellarly, widespread corneal infiltrates and retrocorneal membranes were recorded. In a primary eye irritation study in rabbits, Hectorite was moderately irritating without washing and practically nonirritating to the eye with a washout. Rats tolerated a single dose of Zeolite A without any adverse reaction in the eye. Calcium Silicate had no discernible effect on nidation or on maternal or fetal survival in rabbits. Magnesium Aluminum Silicate had neither a teratogenic nor adverse effects on the mouse fetus. Female rats receiving a 20% Kaolin diet exhibited maternal anemia but no significant reduction in birth weight of the pups was recorded. Type A Zeolite produced no adverse effects on the dam, embryo, or fetus in either rats or rabbits at any dose level. Clinoptilolite had no effect on female rat reproductive performance. These ingredients were not genotoxic in the Ames bacterial test system. In primary hepatocyte cultures, the addition of Attapulgite had no significant unscheduled DNA synthesis. Attapulgite did cause significant increases in unscheduled DNA synthesis in rat pleural mesothelial cells, but no significant increase in sister chromosome exchanges were seen. Zeolite particles (<10 microm) produced statistically significant increase in the percentage of aberrant metaphases in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and cells collected by peritoneal lavage from exposed mice. Topical application of Magnesium Aluminum Silicate to human skin daily for 1 week produced no adverse effects. Occupational exposure to mineral dusts has been studied extensively. Fibrosis and pneumoconiosis have been documented in workers involved in the mining and processing of Aluminum Silicate, Calcium Silicate, Zirconium Silicate, Fuller's Earth, Kaolin, Montmorillonite, Pyrophyllite, and Zeolite. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel concluded that the extensive pulmonary damage in humans was the result of direct occupational inhalation of the dusts and noted that lesions seen in animals were affected by particle size, fiber length, and concentration. The Panel considers that most of the formulations are not respirable and of the preparations that are respirable, the concentration of the ingredient is very low. Even so, the Panel considered that any spray containing these solids should be formulated to minimize their inhalation. With this admonition to the cosmetics industry, the CIR Expert Panel concluded that these ingredients are safe as currently used in cosmetic formulations. The Panel did note that the cosmetic ingredient, Talc, is a hydrated magnesium silicate. Because it has a unique crystalline structure that differs from ingredients addressed in this safety assessment, Talc is not included in this report.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetics / classification
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Expert Testimony*
  • Humans
  • Irritants / toxicity
  • Metals / toxicity*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Silicates / administration & dosage
  • Silicates / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Cosmetics
  • Irritants
  • Metals
  • Silicates