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Cetylpyridinium Chloride Side Effects

Cetylpyridinium chloride (chemical formula C21H38NCl·H2O), also known as CPC or 1-hexadecylpyridinium chloride, is a white, odourless, antiseptic powder used in combination with other substances or as a stand-alone ingredient in oral hygiene products, lozenges, mouthwashes and detergents. Cetylpyridinium chloride treats teething problems and minor mouth and throat infections. CPC is a strong bactericide and fungicide.

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Irritation and Rashes

According to "Secret Gateway to Health," low doses of cetylpyridinium chloride can cause skin irritation, rashes and a burning sensation in the mouth. It also can cause minor throat and mouth irritation, according to "Modell's Drugs in Current Use and New Drugs." Cetylpyridinium chloride also can irritate the eyes, stomach and gastrointestinal tract.

Teeth Staining

According to "Natural Cures for Common Conditions," dental products containing cetylpyridinium chloride can discolour teeth. Eating ripe strawberries, using baking soda and increasing water intake can manage CPC staining. Other remedies include rubbing glycerine and lemon on the teeth and rinsing the teeth thoroughly with water after eating or brushing.

Vomiting and Nausea

Oral products using cetylpyridinium chloride, such as lozenges and toothpaste, can cause vomiting and nausea.

Lung Damage, Oral Numbness and Allergies

Cetylpyridinium chloride can make your mouth or throat numb. Products such as Cepacol, a line of lozenges with cetylpyridinium chloride as the active ingredient, increase the risk of severe allergic reactions, such as swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue, laboured breathing, rashes, and hives. Ingesting high concentrations of cetylpyridinium chloride can lead to lung damage. Cetylpyridinium chloride is toxic if swallowed or inhaled.


"The Dictionary of Substances and Their Effects" reports the results of toxicity tests in which lab rats inhaled 0.05, 0.07, 0.13 and 0.29 mg of cetylpyridinium chloride. Fourteen days after the initial exposure, signs of toxicity included nasal discharge, respiratory difficulty, weight loss, bloody tears, and inflammation of the iris, cornea and aqueous humour (the fluid part of the eye). Other adverse effects in animals include nervous depression, convulsions and limb paralysis.

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About the Author

Natasha Gilani has been a writer since 2004, with work appearing in various online publications. She is also a member of the Canadian Writers Association. Gilani holds a Master of Business Administration in finance and an honors Bachelor of Science in information technology from the University of Peshawar, Pakistan.

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