A study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group with over 500,000 members, and overseen by environmental health consumer advocate David Steinman (author of The Safe Shopper's Bible), analyzed leading "natural" and "organic" brand shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care products for the presence of the undisclosed carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane.
A reputable third-party laboratory, known for rigorous testing and chain-of-custody protocols, performed all testing.
What they found is that companies marketing their personal care products as organic and natural are still using Ethylene Oxide, which generates cancer-causing petrochemical 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product, to give mildness to harsh ingredients.
1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical "known to the State of California to cause cancer" under proposition 65, and has no place in "natural" or "organic" branded personal care products.
1,4-Dioxane is also suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA, and is a leading groundwater contaminant.
Although previous studies have revealed 1,4-Dioxane is often present in conventional personal care products, this study indicates the toxin is also present in leading "natural" and "organic" branded products, none of which are certified under the USDA National Organic Program.
"At a time when our nation is dangerously dependent on foreign oil and attempting to wean itself off unnecessary dependence on petroleum-based ingredients in major consumer products for national security reasons, it is self-defeating that we are literally bathing ourselves and our children in toxic petroleum compounds," says David Steinman.
A visit to any health food store unfortunately reveals the majority of products in the personal care section with "organic" brand claims are not USDA certified, and contain only cheap water extracts of organic herbs and maybe a few other token organic ingredients for organic appearance. The core of such products are composed of conventional synthetic cleansers and conditioning ingredients usually made in part with petrochemicals.
According to market statistics, consumers are willing to pay significantly more for products branded "natural" or "organic" which they believe do not contain petrochemical-modified ingredients or toxic contaminants like 1,4-Dioxane.
But it sound like that they're being taken advantage of.
So, what you as a consumer should do to avoid this unethical conduct by some short-cut companies in order to protect yours and your family's health?
First of all, David Steinman says: "Your best bet is to purchase products whose ingredients you can pronounce or better yet are certified under the USDA National Organic Program."
In other words, look for this label:
If you don't see this label on the product and the product is labeled "organic" or "natural", you might be in for a petrochemical surprise to pamper yourself with the cancer-causing 1,4-Dioxane.
Second, to avoid 1,4-Dioxane, the OCA urges you as a consumer to read the ingredients label on the products for indications of ethoxylation including: "myreth," "oleth," "laureth," "ceteareth," any other "eth," "PEG," "polyethylene," "polyethylene glycol," "polyoxyethylene," or "oxynol," in ingredient names.
In general, the OCA urges consumers to avoid products with unpronounceable ingredients.
After doing a quick research online, we found that Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane has many, many other names as well as trade names. Perhaps, it was done to confuse the general public so they can buy the products without asking any questions.
Use the generic rule: If you cannot pronounce the ingredient, or if it sounds unnatural, don't buy it, stick to the USDA Organic labeled products.
• Fragrance a Growing Environmental and Health Hazard
• Toxic Chemicals in Today's Personal Care Products
• 1,4-Dioxane Found in Dozens of Children's Bath Products and Adults' Personal Care Products
• The list of tested products
• 1,4-Dioxane Fact Sheet [PDF]
• Petition to Stop the Bogus "Organic" OASIS Standard [PDF]
• OCA's "Coming Clean" Campaign