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2009-1,4-dioxane news

Carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane Found in Leading "Organic" Brand Personal Care Products

USDA Certified Products Test Dioxane-Free

ANAHEIM, CA - A newly released study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group with over 500,000 members, and overseen by environmental health consumer advocate David Steinman (author of The Safe Shopper's Bible), analyzes leading "natural" and "organic" brand shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care products for the presence of the undisclosed carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane. A reputable third-party laboratory known for rigorous testing and chain-of-custody protocols, performed all testing.

Ethoxylation, a cheap short-cut companies use to provide mildness to harsh ingredients, requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product. 1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical "known to the State of California to cause cancer" under proposition 65, and has no place in "natural" or "organic" branded personal care products. 1,4-dioxane is also suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA, and is a leading groundwater contaminant. Although previous studies have revealed 1,4-Dioxane is often present in conventional personal care products, this new study indicates the toxin is also present in leading "natural" and "organic" branded products, none of which are certified under the USDA National Organic Program. The products/brands tested are listed on the attached page with the level of 1,4-Dioxane detected, if any, along with ethoxylated ingredients listed on the label.

Some of the Leading Brands Found to Contain 1,4-Dioxane:

Both the OCA and Steinman are calling for misleadingly labeled "Organic(s)" brands which include ethoxylate ingredients or otherwise utilize petrochemicals in their ingredients, to drop all organic claims from their branding and labeling. "The practice of ethoxylating ingredients or using other petroleum compounds must end for natural personal care, and is that much more outrageous in so-called 'organics' brand products," says Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of the OCA.
"At a time when our nation is dangerously dependent on foreign oil and attempting to wean itself off unnecessary dependence on petroleum-based ingredients in major consumer products for national security reasons, it is self-defeating that we are literally bathing ourselves and our children in toxic petroleum compounds," says Steinman. "But consumers should also take heart in the emergence of a growing number of companies who've received the message and who are seeking to completely avoid petrochemicals in their cosmetic and personal care products. Your best bet is to purchase products whose ingredients you can pronounce or better yet are certified under the USDA National Organic Program."

Brands Found not to Contain 1,4-Dioxane:
All USDA Certified brands tested in this study were 1,4-Dioxane-free, including:
  • Dr. Bronner's
    Sensibility Soaps (Nourish)
    Terressentials

All German Natural "BDIH" Certified brands tested
were found to be 1,4-Dioxane-free:

A visit to any health food store unfortunately reveals the majority of products in the personal care section with "organic" brand claims are not USDA certified, and contain only cheap water extracts of organic herbs and maybe a few other token organic ingredients for organic veneer. The core of such products are composed of conventional synthetic cleansers and conditioning ingredients usually made in part with petrochemicals. According to market statistics, consumers are willing to pay significantly more for products branded "natural" or "organic" which they believe do not contain petrochemical-modified ingredients or toxic contaminants like 1,4-Dioxane.

To avoid 1,4-Dioxane, the OCA urges consumers to search ingredient lists for indications of ethoxylation including: "myreth," "oleth," "laureth," "ceteareth," any other "eth," "PEG," "polyethylene," "polyethylene glycol," "polyoxyethylene," or "oxynol," in ingredient names. In general, the OCA urges consumers to avoid products with unpronounceable ingredients. "When it comes to misbranding organic personal care products in the US, it's almost complete anarchy and buyer beware unless the product is certified under the USDA National Organic Program," says Cummins.

The study builds on the extensive survey conducted by Steinman for his book Safe Trip to Eden, in association with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Breast Cancer Fund and the Environmental Working Group, which found that many mainstream children's bubble bath and shampoo products contain dangerous amounts of this undisclosed carcinogen.

Very few, if any, cosmetics or personal care products list 1,4-dioxane as an ingredient (i), even though an analysis by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics co-founder the Environmental Working Group suggests that it may be found in 22 percent of the more than 25,000 products in the Skin Deep database of cosmetics products (ii). That's because 1,4-dioxane is a frequent contaminant of common cosmetics ingredients (iii), but as a contaminant it is not listed among intentionally added ingredients.


Products That May Contain 1,4-dioxane


Because it is a contaminant produced during manufacturing, the FDA does not require 1,4-dioxane to be listed as an ingredient on product labels. Without labeling, there is no way to know for certain how many products contain 1,4-dioxane—and no guaranteed way for consumers to avoid it.

Most commonly, 1,4-dioxane is found in products that create suds, like shampoo, liquid soap and bubble bath. Environmental Working Group's analysis suggests that 97 percent of hair relaxers, 57 percent of baby soaps and 22 percent of all products in Skin Deep may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane (iv). Independent lab tests co-released by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in 2007 showed that popular brands of children's bubble bath and body wash contained 1,4-dioxane.

Besides sodium laureth sulfate, other common ingredients that may be contaminated by 1,4-dioxane include PEG compounds and chemicals that include the clauses "xynol," "ceteareth" and "oleth."


Where It Comes From

1,4-dioxane is generated through a process called ethoxylation, in which ethylene oxide, a known breast carcinogen, is added to other chemicals to make them less harsh. This process creates 1,4-dioxane. For example, sodium laurel sulfate, a chemical that is harsh on the skin, is often converted to the less-harsh chemical sodium laureth sulfate (the “eth” denotes ethoxylation), which can contaminate this ingredient with 1,4-dioxane.

Alternatives do exist, but many companies don't take advantage of them. Vacuum-stripping can remove 1,4-dioxane from an ethoxylated product, or manufacturers can skip ethoxylation entirely by using less-harsh ingredients to begin with (v). Organic standards do not allow ethoxylation at all. A study by the Organic Consumers Association (vi) shows that 1,4-dioxane is nonexistent in a variety of cosmetics produced and certified under the USDA National Organic Program, as well as other products.


Health Concerns

Research shows that 1,4-dioxane readily penetrates the skin (vii). 1,4-dioxane is considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (viii) and listed as an animal carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (ix). It is included on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected by the state to cause cancer or birth defects (x). The California Environmental Protection Agency also lists 1,4-dioxane as a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant.

It is highly unlikely that any one product containing 1,4-dioxane will cause harm on its own. However, repeated exposures from many different products add up. The same baby could be exposed to 1,4-dioxane from baby shampoo, bath bubbles and body wash in a single bath, as well as from other contaminated personal care products today, tomorrow and the next day. Repeated exposures to a single carcinogen, synergistic effects from exposures to multiple carcinogenic and mutagenic ingredients, and concerns about exposures at key points in development (such as pregnancy, infancy and puberty) are cause for concern even though little risk is evident from a single small exposure.


 Malkan, S. 2008. Panic in the Organic Aisle: How a Dirty Scandle is Forcing the Natural Products Industry to Come Clean. Conscious Choice, August 2008. Available at http://seattle.consciouschoice.com/2008/08/organicpanic0808.html. Accessed August 19, 2008.

ii Environmental Working Group (2007). Impurities of Concern in Personal Care Products. Available at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/research/impurities.php. Accessed August 19, 2008.

iii Environmental Working Group (2007). Impurities of Concern in Personal Care Products. Available at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/research/impurities.php. Accessed July 28, 2008.

iv Environmental Working Group. 2008. EWG Research Shows 22 Percent of All Cosmetics May Be Contaminated With Cancer-Causing Impurity. Available at http://www.ewg.org/node/21286. Accessed August 19, 2008.

v Environmental Working Group (2007). Impurities of Concern in Personal Care Products. Available at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/research/impurities.php. Accessed July 28, 2008.

vi Organic Consumers Association. Results of Testing for 1,4 Dioxane. Available at http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/DioxaneResults08.cfm. Accessed August 19, 2008.

vii Spath, D.P.  “1,4-Dioxane Action Level.”  March 24, 1998.  Memorandum from Spath, Chief of the Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management, Department of Health Services, 601 North 7th Street, Sacramento, California 95814 to George Alexeeff, Deputy Director for Scientific Affairs, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.  Viewed at:  http://www.oehha.ca.gov/water/pals/pdf/PAL14DIOXAN.pdf

viii Environmental Protection Agency (2003). 1,4 Dioxane (CASRN 123-91-1). Integrated Risk Information System. Available at http://www.epa.gov/NCEA/iris/subst/0326.htm. Accessed August 19, 2008.

ix National Toxicology Program (2005). Report on Carcinogens, 11th Edition; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program, January 2005. Available at http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/eleventh/profiles/s080diox.pdf.  Accessed August 19, 2008.

x Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHAA) (2004). State of California Environmental Protection Agency. Chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Available at http://oehha.ca.gov/prop65/prop65_list/files/41604list.html. Accessed August 19, 2008.

 

Further Resources:

Downloads:

 

65/prop65_list/files/41604list.html. Accessed August 19, 2008.

 


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