Recently, the EWG released an article indicating the presence of 1,4-dioxine, a potential carcinogen, in 200 children’s personal care products within their Skin Deep® cosmetic database. Dioxane is a synthetic industrial chemical that is completely miscible in water, and can be found in paint strippers, grease, dyes, varnishes and as recently reported, children’s personal care products.
The Skin Deep database contains information on more than 69, 577 products from a variety of popular companies, details the product’s list of cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, and use restriction. The database also provides a list of potentially harmful ingredients and their respective concerns.
What is 1,4-dioxane is and why is it dangerous?
1,4-dioxane is a colorless liquid that is a byproduct of the ethoxylation process that is native to the production of cosmetic products.The Environmental Protection Agency, has listed 1,4-dioxane as a potential human carcinogen, and has also been listed in California’s registry of chemicals known to cause cancer.
Dioxane can contaminate cosmetics and personal care products such as lotions, shampoos, and toothpastes, including those that are meant for children. While the FDA does recommend companies to remove this contaminant, it is not required by law. This means that companies are not obligated to disclose whether their products contain dioxane or not and do not need to remove the chemical, should their products have traces of it. This raises serious issues about the safety of these products, particularly when children are exposed to them.
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Exposure to 1,4-dioxane results in eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation. Short-term exposure to relatively high amounts results in liver and kidney toxicity (regardless of the route of exposure) and may be lethal (1).
How 1,4-dioxane is reported in the ingredients list
There are a number of ways that 1,4-dioxane is reported in the ingredients list of products. These include
- 1,4-DIETHYLENE DIOXIDE
- DI (ETHYLENE OXIDE)
- DIETHYLENE DIOXIDE
- DIETHYLENE DIOXIDE (OSHA)
- DIETHYLENE ETHER
Because dioxane is a byproduct of the manufacturing process of certain cosmetic ingredients, you should be aware of the other ingredients that can react to create dioxane as well. These include certain detergents, foaming agents, emulsifiers and solvents identifiable by the prefix, word, or syllables “PEG,” “Polyethylene,” “Polyethylene glycol,” “Polyoxyethylene,” “-eth-,” or “-oxynol-.” Seeing any of these ingredients in your child’s personal care product may potentially mean that 1,4-dioxane is also present.
Popular products that contain dioxane include: Johnson &Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash. Several tests show that American Girl shower products have the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane.
How to replace products containing 1,4-dioxane with safer options
Until the day that cosmetic policies are reformed to protect people, especially babies and children, from unnecessary toxic chemical exposure, it is important to be mindful of the products that contain 1,4-dioxane and how we can replace them with safer options.
The Organic Consumers Association has shown that 1,4-dioxane is nonexistent in products certified under the USDA National Organic Product. Because of the lack of laws, the safest bet is to purchase products that have been certified under this program and to avoid products that contain any dioxane or dioxane-associated chemical in their ingredients list.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MMG/MMG.asp?id=1205&tid=199
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