Just say no to 1,4-dioxane


Readers of this column already know that many everyday products contain chemicals such as PFAS which can be hazardous to human health. But chances are you’ve never heard of 1,4-dioxane. It’s time to ban it from your home.

1,4-Dioxane is a synthetic industrial chemical that can be found in just about any everyday household product including skin care, food additives, food packaging, spray products. with certain pesticides, dishwashing detergents and cleaners, paint strippers, dyes, greases, waxes and varnishes. The chemical can also be found in drinking water in areas where plastics have been made, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). In 2017, EWG’s Skin Deep® database revealed that at least 8,000 skin care products could be contaminated with it.

It is found in skin care and cleansers because it is formed as a by-product during the manufacture of common ingredients: the ethoxylated ingredients. “In 2020, 39% of personal care products contained at least one ethoxylated ingredient when Clearya and the Silent Spring Institute analyzed the ingredient lists of 7,300 personal care, baby care and cleaning products offered. by US online retailers, ”said Amit Rosner, co-founder of Clearya. me.

Now for the bad news: The chemical is linked to cancer, liver, and kidneys in humans. Almost 90 million Americans in 45 states had it in their drinking water, according to EWG’s most recent report. Even expensive reverse osmosis water filters can’t remove everything. There is no US federal law restricting 1,4-dioxane in tap water. Small and medium-sized water utilities rarely test it, and private wells are not required to test it.

Some tips for avoiding this dangerous chemical can be complicated, to say the least. EWG says you can avoid 1,4-dioxane by saying no to products containing PEG, polyethylene, polyoxyethylene and polyoxynolethylene and chemicals end in “-eth” and “-oxynol.” But in addition to the EWG’s list, the FDA says to look for chemicals with the prefix, word or syllables “-eth-,” “-oxynol-.”


I looked for an easier way to avoid 1,4-dioxane. I started my quest by contacting the manufacturers directly. This led to a dizzying head turn. The various manufacturers that I interviewed took issue with the methods of testing 1,4-dioxane in their products. Then I learned that even though the manufacturers claim to use one of the testing methods from the USA EPA’s 1,4-Dioxane Fact Sheet, you still need to apply for Certificates of Analysis. For example, the isotope dilution gas chromatography (GS / MC) mass spectrometry method has a detection limit of 10 ppm. But by December 31, 2022, cleaners sold in New York City will need to contain less than two parts per million (ppm) of 1.4 dioxane.

Seventh Generation and Dirty Labs told me what they know. According to Martin Wolf, Director of Sustainability and Authenticity at Seventh Generation, “the two [FDA and EWG] the declarations are insufficient. They lump together a large number of chemicals that do not form 1,4-dioxane with others that might, and they fail to alert consumers to the greatest sources of 1,4-dioxane in products. consumption, ethersulfates such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and similar chemicals such as ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium (or ammonium) coceth sulfate, and sodium (or ammonium) pareth sulfate ) C10-C18.

To make matters even more confusing, Dirty Labs keeps these ingredients with “-eth-” out of their products as they might have 1,4-dioxane: Sodium Laureth Ether Sulfate (SLES) and Alkyl (C10-16) Ether Sulfate , lauryl ethoxylate, lauryl alcohol ethoxylate, laureth-6, laureth-7, ethoxylated C10-C16 alcohol, C12-15 pareth-2, soybean methyl ester ethoxylate, alkoxylated polyethyleneimine and polyethyleneimine ethoxylate propoxylate.

You would have to be a chemical engineer to not sounds like gibberish. But it just shows how these dangerous chemicals lurk in all the products we use and are essentially hidden from view by naming conventions and applications that make it nearly impossible to remove them from our lives.

After a lot of research and product analysis, I found an easier way to say no to 1,4-dioxane. Here is a list of 1,4-Dioxane-free brands, apps, and policy ideas to help you avoid this dangerous chemical.

Shop for skin care and cleansers with the Clearya phone app or web browser extension

When I asked Clearya if they were eliminating 1,4-dioxane, they said yes and shared the FDA ingredient list with me. If you are browsing the products of an online store where Clearya has collected ingredient data, click on the Clearya logo under each product to see if it contains toxic ingredients like 1,4-dioxane or allergens. . Then, if you click on the Discover tab of the Clearya logo, you will see safer alternatives.

Less toxic plastic pod-less cleaners with allegedly less than 1 ppm 1,4-dioxane levels

Fill your own containers at zero-waste stores with 1,4-dioxane-free cleaners like those at Fountain House (which offers community therapy and employs people with serious mental illnesses). Or try Booda Organics laundry powder. It only has four unscented edible ingredients that they use in their all-in-one shampoo, shave and body soap, baking soda, organic olive oil, walnut oil virgin coconut and fair trade shea butter. I bought their 10 pound bag to save money.

Consider avoiding cleaners with pods, as they can be made with non-biodegradable plastic. Even though some say they totally degrade, they’re still plastic, a source of pollution I try to avoid. I found two brands without plastic pods, although they are in single-use metal containers and contain palm oil (which has 1000 names that don’t sound like palm oil) . Both say they use vegan and cruelty-free ingredients and have certified bio-based ingredients.

Dirty Labs sells a concentrated liquid laundry detergent that contains undetectable 1,4-dioxane at less than one ppm. “We don’t use pods or plastic sheets because even though they say they are made from water soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH or PVA), pods can release microplastics,” told me. says Souyoung Park, Marketing Director of Dirty Labs. When I asked if they would have plastic-free containers, Park replied that they would eventually.

Another brand, Seventh Generation, claims to have products formulated not to contain detectable 1,4-dioxane. When I asked how this was possible when using laureth-6 and laureth-7, Wolf stated that they only source from suppliers who demonstrate good control of the process and test it using the technique of GC / MS headspace with isotopic dilution which is specific to 1,4-dioxane. Seventh Generation’s Zero Plastic Packaging line includes powder or tablet washing products, dishwashing cleaners, hand washing, and bath and kitchen cleaners. When I asked if they were trying to find a way that you could someday fill your own containers in stores, they said yes.

Make sure other cleaning, dish soap, and detergent manufacturers list all ingredients

Did you know that these cleaners sold in California are required to list all ingredients on manufacturers’ websites starting in 2020 and on product labels by 2021? Some manufacturers don’t seem to know that either. If they don’t, you can ask the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to give them a little reminder. Manufacturers should also post a link to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each product on their website so that you can see the risks to health and the environment. The product label should also list the toll-free phone number and the manufacturer’s website.

For readers who live outside of California, I strongly suggest reaching out to your local elected official to ask them to advocate for the same type of transparency.

Ask Businesses, Elected Officials, Utilities, and the FDA to Clean Up Their Law and Regulate 1,4-Dioxane

According to a 2017 EWG report, companies can minimize 1,4-dioxane in end products. Ask the FDA to regulate 1,4-dioxane in personal care products. And ask the US EPA to set a legal limit for 1,4-dioxane in drinking water and to regulate industrial uses of 1,4-dioxane. You can also ask your water utility to install treatments to reduce 1,4-dioxane in your water.


About Author

Comments are closed.