A few years ago I was in Shanghai, and I bought my wife a “Louis Vuitton” purse from a street vendor for an incredibly low price. She loved it, and it disintegrated after about three uses. She and I weren’t too surprised or disappointed by this because we suspected it wasn’t an authentic Louis Vuitton purse.
We would both be surprised and upset if we found out products labeled as “organic” or “natural” contained carcinogens and petrochemicals, but this is exactly was a recent study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association found.
The study found that many personal care products labeled as organic or natural including shampoos, body washes and lotions contain a chemical called 1,4-Dioxane. The 1,4-Dioxane is present as a byproduct of a petrochemical called Ethylene Oxide that is added to the products.
1,4-Dioxane is a bad actor. It is listed by the California Environmental Protection Agency as a carcinogen and is a suspected kidney toxin, neurotoxin and respiratory toxic. Nothing about 1,4-Dioxane or Ethylene Oxide is organic or natural for us.
Don’t assume that products labeled just as organic or natural are always healthier choices. You still need to check the ingredients on the product labels. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce the name of the ingredient, it’s probably not too organic or natural. According to OCA, you should avoid products with words including “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol.”
A much easier way is to look for products that have been certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program or the German Natural “BDIH” Program. None of the products tested in the OCA study with these certifications contained 1,4-Dioxane.
To get the full story and a list of products that did and did not contain 1,4-Dioxane, go here.
Despite this study, you shouldn’t assume that all personal care products labeled as organic or natural are not healthier choices either. Some of them are fine. On that same trip to Shanghai, I also bought a “Prada” purse for a great low price. It is still in great condition after nearly three years and lots of uses.