What Is 1,4-Dioxane And Why You Should Avoid It.


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1,4-dioxane, often just called dioxane, is primarily used as a solvent in manufacturing situations but is also commonly found in personal care products because it is an accidental byproduct of the ethoxylation process that goes on when cosmetic products are made. (ethylene oxide is added to fatty acids in order to make them more soluble in water, which is an inexpensive way to provide mildness to harsh ingredients) And because dioxane is a known eye and respiratory tract irritant and is suspected of causing damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys, it should be of concern to you if you are using personal care products containing it!

Back in March of this year, a study by the Organic Consumers Association determined that that dioxane was inside many “organic and natural” products, such as Alba Replenishing Shampoo, Citrus Magic 100% Natural Dish Liquid, Earth Friendly Products Ultra Dishmate and Nature’s Gate Moisturizing Liquid Soap. These products, amongst many others, were shown to have varying amounts of 1,4-dioxane in them – which kind of goes against the whole “natural is better for you” argument, right? And even though the some of the companies claimed they didn’t know 1,4-dioxane was being created during the process their product goes through, it is their job to know – and thus there really isn’t any excuse to be selling natural and organic products that contain it.

Another study by the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics revealed 1,4-dioxane in mainstream products such as Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, and Sesame Street Bubble Bath. The tests also found the carcinogen in Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo, Olay Complete Body Wash and many other personal care products. They also found that:

  • 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 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.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4-Dioxane as a “Group B2, probable human carcinogen” based on “induction of nasal cavity and liver carcinomas in multiple strains of rats, liver carcinomas in mice, and gall bladder carcinomas in guinea pigs.”

And finally, a third study by the Environmental Working Group determined that 1,4-dioxane may be present in 57% of all baby soaps and 34% of all body lotions. That is not a good statistic to hear, especially if you have a baby!

Because it is a contaminant that is produced during the manufacturing of these products and not an actual ingredient, the FDA does not require it to be listed on product labels. So how are you supposed to avoid 1,4-dioxane if it is not listed on the bottle? Well, for starters you can try to avoid any of the 56 cosmetic ingredients that can contain the contaminant, including “sodium laureth sulfate” and ingredients that include the clauses “PEG,” “xynol,” “ceteareth,” and “oleth.”

The State of California has listed 1,4-dioxane as a chemical known to cause cancer and/or birth defects. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers 1,4-dioxane as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Do you really want to putting this toxin on your or your childs’ body? It’s best to try to avoid if you at all can!

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  1. For a decade, I’ve been astounded by people who say “Of course this product is safe. It’s natural so it is better, healthier, etc.” Here are a few bad things that are natural: dioxin, arsenic, lead, and mercury. Please, people, just because an element or compound is found in nature, does not mean it is safe or healthy or free from problems. Substituting one set of chemicals for another is not green. Please develop some skepticism!

  2. That is some of the worst stuff out there. I read the article on organic consumers and was happy to hear that Dr. Bronners and the state of California won the lawsuit and only one of the several companies changed their product, which is just amazing. Organic natural skin care products are the Best!

  3. “Organic natural skin care products are the Best!”

    Many of of those products actually are organic, natural skin products. That is why it is so important to check out these lists and the ingredients before buying anything at all.

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