June 10, 2008

1,4-Dioxane is still a problem

Last year I wrote about how many shampoos, soaps and bubbles baths contained something called 1,4-Dioxane, which is a carcinogen. Because it is a contaminant produced during manufacturing, the FDA does not require it to be listed as an ingredient on product labels. In my last post I wrote about how it was found in many children's products and yet there was no easy way to know which was safe since it isn't listed as an ingredient.

You would think then that buying body products at a natural health store would keep you safe, right? Wrong! The Organic Consumers Association has tested several natural products and found they, too contain carcinogenic ingredients.

In fact, the Attorney General of California has filed a major lawsuit against body care household-cleaning product companies whose products recently tested highest for the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane. Under California's "Proposition 65" consumer products that contain toxic levels of 1,4 Dioxane must have warning labels stating they may cause cancer. 1,4-Dioxane is typically produced as a byproduct when ingredients are ethoxylated with the petrochemical ethylene oxide, a process which has become standard practice for many cleansing and moisturizing products.

The suit, California v. Avalon Natural Products (manufacturer of the Alba brand), also names Whole Foods Market California (manufacturer of the Whole Foods 365 brand), Beaumont Products (manufacturer of the Citrus Magic brand), and Nutribiotic. It is unclear exactly which products manufactured by the aforementioned companies triggered the lawsuit, but all named companies have sold products that tested close to or in excess of 20 parts per million for 1,4-Dioxane in the OCA study. You can read the full press release here.

I was surprised to see the results of the products they tested. My favorite dish washing soap is full of it, not to mention a soap and shampoo I had bought for me and my kids. The Organic Consumers Association website has a link to learn more about 1,4-Dioxane, but as of this posting the link wasn't working. I'll include it in hopes it is a temporary server issue.

I'm not sure how to choose products without the 1,4-Dioxane, other than selecting things that were tested and have no trace of it. Wouldn't it be great if the lawsuit and other actions helped to improve the labeling of cosmetic and body products?


cari c said...

I have two questions - what is the "safe" level of 1,4-Dioxane? As a geeky scientist, I'd also like to know the errors on the measurements. It probably isn't huge since they're reporting to 0.1 ppm, but it would still be interesting to know, for the higher amounts. Bummed to see some of my products on there!

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

So is this something that Skin Deep takes into consideration when rating products for their site? They're usually my go-to place for checking if a product is safe, but now I wonder if I can really trust that site???

mom go green said...

good question about skin deep! they do list 1,4-dioxane in their ingredient info, and give it a 10 (the worst of the worst).

however, i am not sure if their testing methods actually test products for 1,4-dioxane or if they solely look at ingredient lists. i will contact them and ask asap. overall i think the site is very reputable and trustworthy.

cari, um, i don't think i'm much help with the science questions. is there a safe level of a carcinogen? do they compound with frequent exposure? i don't know. i can contact the study's authors and see if we get an answer.

you ladies pose some good questions!

mom go green said...

i just clicked on the link to learn more about 1,4-dioxane and the pdf document may answer some of your questions. it says "When laboratory animals were tested with 1,4-Dioxane at the lowest parts per billion level—over the animal’s lifetime—
they developed cancer. The levels of 1,4-Dioxane found in many personal care products are 1,000 times higher than those found to cause cancer
in laboratory animals. Based on this fact, these should not be considered “low levels” of 1,4-Dioxane. The combined effects of lifetime exposure to 1,4-Dioxane and other carcinogens can create synergistic effects, so that levels from multiple compounds add up and even multiply
to create greater risk."

see what you think:

cari c said...

Egad, I say. That is just scary. I guess my Method dishsoap is out the door. Bummer, because I love that grapefruit scent.