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Allergy to methyldibromoglutaronitrile

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2012.


What is methyldibromoglutaronitrile and where is it found?

Methyldibromoglutaronitrile (MDBGN) is a bromine-containing preservative that has been used in cosmetic and toiletry preparations as well as in some industrial products. It is also commonly known as dibromodicyanobutane. A maximum concentration of 0.1% MDBGN in stay-on and rinse-off cosmetics was approved for use in the mid-1980s and animal tests showed it to be a weak sensitiser compared to other preservatives used at the time. By the 1990’s it became a commonly used preservative, particularly in cosmetic and self-hygiene products.

However, methyldibromoglutaronitrile was soon discovered to cause allergic contact dermatitis reactions in eczema patients. Rates of sensitisation to MDBGN increased from 0.7% in 1991 to 3.5% in 2000 in patch test studies from 16 European centres. In the United States, sensitivity rates were up to 11.7%. In 2005, the European Union banned the use of MDBGN in stay-on products, and then later in 2007 also in rinse-off products. Recent data from Europe observed a significant decrease in positive patch test reactions since the ban of MDBGN.

Products that may contain methyldibromoglutaronitrile
Cosmetics/Self-hygiene products Commercial/industrial products
  • Body creams
  • Facial/hand lotions
  • Massage oils
  • Make-up
  • Baby lotions and wipes / moist toilet paper
  • Shampoos/conditioners
  • Liquid soaps and shower gels
  • Sunscreens
  • Cleansers and other skincare products
  • Cutting oils
  • Drilling oils
  • Coolants
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Medical products such as ultrasonic gels
  • Face masks and respirators

What are the reactions to methyldibromoglutaronitrile allergy?

In methyldibromoglutaronitrile-allergic individuals, contact with MDBGN produces classic allergic contact dermatitis.

The dermatitis is usually confined to the area of contact and may cause itching, burning, scaling, hives (urticaria), and blistering of the skin.

Am I allergic to methyldibromoglutaronitrile?

Methyldibromoglutaronitrile allergy is diagnosed by performing patch testing. Concentrations of 0.5% methyldibromoglutaronitrile in petrolatum can be used for patch testing. It is part of the European Standard Series in the baseline series of patch test allergens.

Treatment of methyldibromoglutaronitrile allergy

Following confirmation of methyldibromoglutaronitrile allergy, the causative agent must be removed followed by treatment as for any acute dermatitis/eczema; this may include use of topical steroid and emollients.

What should I do to avoid methyldibromoglutaronitrile allergy?

Patients with methyldibromoglutaronitrile allergy should avoid direct skin contact with products containing this preservative. If you have a sensitivity be sure to read product labels in all personal care products before you use them. Be aware of alternative names for MDBGN. If unsure, ask your pharmacist for advice or a suitable alternative.

Alert your doctor, pharmacist, dentist, veterinarian, beautician, and hairdresser to the fact that you have an allergy to MDBGN.

If MDBGN is used in your workplace, use heavy-duty gloves and/or protective clothing to prevent contact.

Your dermatologist may have further specific advice, particularly if you are highly sensitive to MDBGN.

Alternative names for methyldibromoglutaronitrile

  • 2-Bromo-2-(bromomethyl)pentanedinitrile
  • 1,2-dibromo-2,4-dicyanobutane
  • 1-Bromo-1-(bromomethyl)-1,3-propanedicarbonitrile
  • 2-Bromo-2-(bromomethyl) glutaronitrile
  • Dibromodicyanobutane
  • Bromothalonil
  • Euxyl K400
  • Tektamer 38
  • Merquat 2200
  • Metacide 38

Further information

Formula: C6H6Br2N

CAS number: 35691-65-7

Cross-reactions: none of major concern

Appearance: white to yellow crystals

Sensitiser: methyldibromoglutaronitrile

Patch test: 0.5% methyldibromoglutaronitrile in petrolatum



  • Al Badri FM. Surgical mask contact dermatitis and epidemiology of contact dermatitis in healthcare workers. Curr Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017;30:183-8. Journal 
  • Book: Contact Dermatitis 5th ed. Ed Johansen JD, Frosch PJ, Lepoittevin J-P. Springer 2011
  • Johansen JD, Veien N, Laurberg G, et al. Decreasing trends in methyldibromo glutaronitrile contact allergy--following regulatory intervention. Contact Dermatitis. 2008;59(1):48-51. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.2008.01364.x PubMed
  • Kamstrup MR, Bandier J, Johansen JD, Thyssen JP. Contact allergy to methyldibromo glutaronitrile is still of clinical relevance. Contact Dermatitis. 2017;77(4):250-1. doi:10.1111/cod.12768 PubMed

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