Almost Half of Personal Care Products Contain This Carcinogen

The chemical 1,4-dioxane is a harmful carcinogen—and guess what: it is in 46 percent of personal care products on the US market.

I’ll give you a second to rummage through your medicine cabinet right now, frantically scanning ingredients lists on your shampoos, bubble baths, lotions and body washes.

Ah, you don’t see 1,4-dioxane on any ingredients lists, do you? Hold off on that sigh of relief. The chemical 1,4-dioxane is likely not going to appear on any product label.

That is because 1,4-dioxane is actually a byproduct that is created through the combination of other chemicals. It doesn’t technically have to be included on the ingredients list because it isn’t directly added into personal care products. It lurks, unlisted.

If the US government doesn’t think it needs to be on the label, how harmful could it be? Well, for starters, 1,4-dioxane is banned in Canada. Plus, the Environmental Working Group gives it a score of 8 out of 10, meaning it is a high hazard. And it’s pretty tough to get rid of once it enters our environment. It does not stick to soil particles, which means it seeps easily into our groundwater. Once in water, 1,4-dioxane remains intact and does not break down.

As of 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that 1,4-dioxane is possibly carcinogenic to humans; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considered 1,4-dioxane as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen; and the EPA established that 1,4-dioxane is likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Five years later, here we are, still finding it in our personal care products.

According to Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president of government affairs, “This contaminant is linked to cancer and serves absolutely no purpose in cosmetics.” It’s nasty.

But change is on the horizon. New York state senators Schumer and Gillibrand are petitioning the FDA for the removal of 1,4-dioxane from all US personal care products. An unsettling quantity of this likely carcinogen was found in Long Island’s water supply, which is what prompted the senators’ actions. And it is not an unreasonable request for companies. The chemical serves absolutely no purpose in personal care products and its removal is a relatively simple and inexpensive process known as “vacuum stripping”. There is really nothing keeping 1,4-dioxane in our lives except for congressional action, which is where you come in.

If you care about what lurks unseen in your personal care products, sign this Care2 petition in support of Senator Schumer’s ban. You can also call your reps in Congress to let your voice be heard and show that people care about this issue. Use this online tool to get contact information for your local representatives and have your concerns heard.

In the meantime, you have a good chance of avoiding 1,4-dioxane in your products if you avoid PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, and polyoxyethylene on the ingredients list, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Without Bees, You Can Say Goodbye to These Breakfast Foods
6 Reasons You’re So Tired All the Time
Should You Have to Choose Between Good Coffee & Sustainability? Absolutely Not.


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill13 days ago

How can they be allowed to do this? Why do "we, the people" keep buying these products?

Jane Howard
Jane H27 days ago


Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago


natasha s
natasha s1 months ago

Everything in my washroom is homemade. More so coz of the reslentless grotesque animal testing.

Jess B
Jess B1 months ago


Jetana A
Jetana A1 months ago

Petition signed, of course! Thanks for the short list of what to look for on labels in order to avoid this carcinogen.

Philippa P
Philippa P1 months ago

Petition signed.

Winn A
Winn A1 months ago


Winn A
Winn A1 months ago


Carl R
Carl R1 months ago