On January 25, 2013, Proctor & Gamble made a big announcement that they will voluntarily reduce the amount of 1,4-Dioxane in their Tide detergents. It is only a reduction, not an elimination. Moreover, it will take Proctor & Gamble nine months to make the reduction while they sell off the current formulation of their detergents. Plus, it is clear that Proctor & Gamble did not exactly volunteer to reformulate their detergent. It signed a consent decree to reduce a level of 1,4-Dioxane in a California court. Nevertheless, the announcement made me happy on so many levels.
First of all, by signing the consent decree to reduce 1,4-Dioxane, Proctor & Gamble tacitly admitted that 1,4-Dioxane is a dangerous chemical, and that it is possible to reduce the mount of it in production relatively fast. (My husband, an attorney, assures me that it is extremely unlikely that Proctor & Gamble actually admitted to any wrongdoing in the consent decree, or that 1,4-Dioxane is dangerous.) However, prior to signing the consent decree, Proctor & Gamble steadfastly maintained that 1,4-Dioxane is a common by-product and there is nothing to be concerned about.
Second, by making the announcement, Proctor and Gamble put their competitors in an awkward situation. They will have nothing left but to do something about 1,4-Dioxane in their products too, because Proctor & Gamble has demonstrated that it is possible to make a detergent without it (or as much of it, anyway).
Third, I am happy that 78,000 people who signed the petition and countless others who put the pictures of a baby playing with Tide detergent on their Facebook pages knew the danger of 1,4-Dioxane.
Fourth, I am happy to see consumer power in action. If consumers demand safe products, eventually they will receive them. And the role of educated consumers is critical in the US because the government’s regulations are often lenient or non-existent.
It all started in November 2011 when Women’s Voices for the Earth, a grass roots organization that is committed to eliminating toxic chemicals that surround us in our everyday life, published independent testing results of cleaners and laundry detergents including Tide Original Scent and Tide Free & Gentle (fragrance free). Ironically and very sadly, Tide Free & Gentle formula had a higher level of 1,4-Dioxane than Tide Original Scent and Tide Free & Gentle formula is marketed for babies’ clothes.
Fifth, I am happy about the reduction of 1,4-Dioxane because 1,4-Dioxane is one of the worst and common chemicals in cosmetics, personal care products and cleaning products. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has rated it 8 out of 10 (10 being the worst) for the negative health impact. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified it into group 2B, meaning that it is “possibly carcinogenic to humans;” the US Toxicology National Program has classified 1,4-dioxane as being among those “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens;” and the state of California has included 1,4-dioxane in the California Proposition 65 “Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer” list. Besides that, 1,4-Dioxane is suspected as a kidney toxicant, a neurotoxicant and a respiratory toxicant, according to the California EPA.
Moreover, the scariest part is that the more people use products containing 1,4-Dioxane, the higher level of 1,4-Dioxane will be in our drinking water, air, and soil.
What is 1,4-Dioxane? Why is it in our everyday products? The Organic Consumers Association explains that 1,4-Dioxane is a by-product of the process called ethoxylation, a cheap shortcut process many companies use to provide mildness (in other words, reduce risk of skin irritation) to harsh cleaning ingredients. This process requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product. It is possible to skip the ethoxylation process altogether by using better quality ingredients. Alternatively, a vacuum-stripping method can be applied to ethoxylated ingredients.
There is no regulation that requires that products be tested for the presence of 1,4-Dioxane before they are sold. There is also no regulation that requires a manufacturer to disclose 1,4-Dioxane, which there becomes a “hidden” ingredient, meaning that it may be in a product without being listed as an ingredient. As a result. 1,4-Dioxane is in many products, including so-called “organic” or “natural” products. In 2008, The Organic Consumer Association released a list of “organic” and “natural” brands contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane, but this does not seem to have dissuaded the manufacturers of these so-called “organic” or “natural” products. 1,4-dioxane is found in products that create suds, like shampoo, liquid soap, and bubble bath. EWG’s analysis suggests that 97 percent of hair relaxers, 57 percent of baby soaps and 22 percent of all products in its Skin Deep database may be contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane.
In 2010, a study conducted by The Organic Consumers Association found that conventional brands, such as Ivory Snow and Tide, had higher levels of 1,4-Dioxide. The “natural” brands were the obvious winners, as five of the seven brands tested free of 1,4-Dioxane including:
- Clorox Green Works laundry detergent
- ECOS laundry detergent (Earth Friendly Products)
- Life Tree laundry liquid
- Method Squeaky Green laundry detergent
- Seventh Generation Free & Clear laundry detergent
I find ECOS laundry detergent safe and use it for my family, including the baby. It is safer for a baby than some detergents specifically marketed for babies. If you’d like to purchase it on Amazon, here is the link to Ecos Free & Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent 100 Ounces. Whole Food carries this brand. You can also purchase it in Costco. I buy it at Costco. Costco carries only magnolia and lily scented formulation though. I find the smell very mild. And it is safe for a baby because it is scented with essential oils as opposed to synthetic fragrance.
Here is the description on the back of the ECOS Magnolia and Lily scented detergent.
How to avoid 1,4-Dioxane since it is not disclosed on product labels? Look for ingredients that contain the following:
- polyethylene glycol
There is a high risk that these ingredients are associated with 1,4-Dioxane. In other words, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, the chances are that it is contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane, so be suspicious, do your research.
Keep abreast on the results of independent studies published by The Organic Consumer Association, Environmental Working Group, The Women’s Voices for the Planet, etc.
And keep reading my blog. Please share any comments you might have.