Some shampoos and other bath
products still contain traces of a cancer-causing
petrochemical that federal health officials have expressed
concerns about for more than 20 years, according to test
results announced Thursday by environmental activists.
All 18 children's and adult products tested in a laboratory
contained 1,4-dioxane, and three had concentrations that
exceeded the Food and Drug Administration's recommended
limit, says the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a San
Francisco-based coalition of eight national environmental
and health advocacy organizations.
The chemical is not an additive, but an unintended byproduct
during manufacture of some formulations.
The tests, conducted by a Santa Fe Springs laboratory, were
commissioned by David Steinman of Topanga, publisher of
Healthy Living magazine, and included in his new book
outlining steps that consumers can take to protect the
According to the environmental group, the highest
concentrations, 23 parts per million, were detected in
Clairol Herbal Essences Rainforest Flowers Shampoo and Olay
Complete Body Wash With Vitamins, both made by Procter &
Gamble. The highest in a children's product was 12 ppm, in
Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, sold by Kid Care, a division of
Cosmetic Essence Inc.
In 1985, the FDA asked the cosmetics industry to voluntarily
limit the chemical to 10 ppm. But there are no standards
governing it and no testing requirements.
Fifteen of the 18 were at or under the 10 ppm
recommendation, with the lowest amount, in Mr. Bubble Bubble
Bath Gentle Formula, reaching 1.5 ppm.
A probable human carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane penetrates skin,
although much of it evaporates when used, according to FDA
Cosmetics industry representatives say the amounts of the
chemical detected in the products are safe, especially since
they are mainly in shampoos and other products that are
quickly washed off.
"Consumers should not be concerned about the levels in this
data," said John Bailey, science director of the Cosmetics,
Toiletry & Fragrance Assn., an industry trade group.
The levels are lower than they were historically, Bailey
said, so "it shows the manufacturers are doing their job"
and removing the petrochemical.
The FDA says in its cosmetics handbook that the problem was
first reported in 1978 and that companies can strip the
petrochemical from products "without an unreasonable
increase in raw material cost."
"However, some cosmetics, detergents and shampoos may
contain levels higher than recommended by FDA," says a
report by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and
Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. The agency advises consumers to avoid
products listing the surfactants PEG, polyethylene,
polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, polyethoxyethylene or
polyoxynolethylene as ingredients unless the company has
shown that they are not tainted with 1,4-dioxane.
The chemical was declared a carcinogen under California's
Proposition 65, which requires warnings on products that
pose a certain cancer risk. But state officials have not
reviewed whether any products contain enough to trigger such
For Safe products without pg, or peg or any other harmful