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Organic Consumers Association

OCA's New Study Finds Greatly Reduced Carcinogens in Personal Care Products

  • Press Release: New OCA Study
    Follow-Up Tests of Leading Personal Care and Household Cleaning Brands Reveal Improvements in Levels of Carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane
    Organic Consumers Association, For Immediate Release: March 6, 2009
    Straight to the Source

Contact: 
Adam Eidinger - 202-744-2671
Ariel Vegosen - 516-732-0579
Ronnie Cummins - 218-349-3836
Sheila Huettl - 310-455-8952

ANAHEIM, CA - Today, a new follow-up study was released that assesses levels of the petrochemical carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in leading conventional as well as  "natural" and "organic" brands of personal care and household cleaning products. The results indicate significant improvement for 23 products from sixteen major brands that had formerly been found to contain potentially dangerous levels of the contaminant 1,4-dioxane in a similar study held in March of 2008.

Both of these studies, which looked specifically at products that come in contact with the skin, were commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group with over 500,000 members, and were overseen by environmental health consumer advocate David Steinman (author of The Safe Shopper's Bible). The independent third-party laboratory, Bodycote Testing Group, known for rigorous testing and chain-of-custody protocols, performed all testing. The products selected for the study are available at popular retail outlets.

As was the case with the former study, the new results showed that products bearing the USDA Organic seal (such as products from Dr. Bronner's, Intelligent Nutrients and Terressentials), were totally free of 1,4-dioxane.

Many companies with products that tested positive for 1,4-dioxane in the March 2008 study were cooperative with the Organic Consumers Association and provided re-formulated products for the new study. Brands whose products showed significant improvement since the last study include: Earth Friendly Products, Ecco Bella, Giovanni, Jason, Johnson & Johnson, Kiss My Face, Life Tree, Method, Nature's Gate, Planet Ultra, and Seventh Generation. (Seventh Generation also donated $10,000 to help fund this follow-up study.) Three companies named in a lawsuit filed in June 2008 by the California Attorney General based on previous high levels of 1,4-dioxane in their tested products have reformulated and their products tested clean or nearly clean in the current study: Alba (Avalon), Citrus Magic, and Nutribiotic.

Several brands claimed to be working on product reformulations that were not ready in time for this study, including: Nature's Gate, Healthy Times, and The Village Company. A spokesperson from Whole Foods Market, which is also a defendant in the California Attorney General's lawsuit, reports they are reformulating their private label 365 Everyday Value products according to their new Premium Body Care Standards, and will be rolling them out to the stores by mid summer.

Some of the leading brands with products testing at the highest levels for the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane were Dial, Palmolive, Head & Shoulders, and Body Essence. Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap had the highest levels of the carcinogen at an alarming 204 ppm (parts per million), ten times higher than any other product's current results in the study.

Based on the presence of potentially dangerous levels of 1,4-dioxane, legal notices have been served this week by David Steinman to Mrs. Meyer's, Dial, and others. According to Ronnie Cummins, the National Director of the Organic Consumers Association, "The OCA pledges to keep up the pressure until every brand claiming to be 'natural' removes 1,4-dioxane and other problematic synthetic chemicals from their products."

About 1,4-Dioxane


1,4-dioxane is a petrochemical "known to the State of California to cause cancer" under Proposition 65. Due to its toxicity, many consumers would not expect to find it in "natural" or "organic" branded personal care products.  The contaminant 1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of the ethoxylation process, which is a cheap shortcut companies often use to provide mildness to harsh cleaning ingredients. 1,4-dioxane is also a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, and respiratory toxicant, according to the California EPA, and it is a significant groundwater contaminant.  While previous studies have revealed the presence of 1,4-dioxane in baby, children's and adults products and those mislabeled as "organic" and "natural", this latest study shows the toxin is being significantly reduced as many brands reformulate.

Further Resources
Download Printable Version of this Press Release (doc)
Read and pint shopper's safety guide
Download the Test Results (pdf)
OCA Fact sheet on 1,4-dioxane
OCA's Coming Clean Campaign
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Environmental Working Group

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