Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Carcinogen Expert David Steinman Speaks at Press Event Unveiling OCA's New Study Assessing 1,4-Dioxane Toxin in Personal Care Products

Today marks the culmination of my three year campaign to remove the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane from consumer products.  This is a campaign begun by a single father of three young children who just wanted to know that the products he was buying for his children were safe.  

I undertook this study originally to protect my own children from a dangerous chemical in kids' bubble baths and shampoos that had been knowingly kept in these products by manufacturers or distributors even though it is known to both the federal government and state of California to cause cancer.  Today's press conference marks the culmination of my campaign because it has been phenomenally successful.  I say that we have won this battle and that we can now look to larger victories in making our consumer cosmetic, personal care and household cleaning products safe.  

By providing my test results and using the antiseptic qualities of public disclosure via the half million members of the Organic Consumers Association and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and with support from both the Environmental Working Group, as well as the state of California's attorney general, many manufacturers have either voluntarily or under legal and public pressure agreed to reformulate their products to make them far more safe than ever before by removal or markedly reducing levels of this known carcinogens.  Consumers should mark this important victory as one which not only benefits our children but all consumers.  

As our results released last year demonstrated, not only were kids' bubble bath and shampoo products routinely contaminated with high levels of the cancer causing chemical 1,4-dioxane, so were adult products including shampoos, body washes, dishwashing soap, among other product categories.  Many products exceeded the lenient guidelines informally set up by federal agencies.  None of this information was provided to consumers when they unsuspectingly and unknowingly purchased products on the belief that they were safe and free from harmful, unnecessary chemicals and their contaminants.  No labeling for the presence of this cancer causing chemical was required.  

The big news and the good news is this:  after the release of our results and legal action taken by the state attorney general based on our findings, many companies swiftly and effectively reformulated their products at no increased costs to consumers or to their own bottom line.  The results we have obtained 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.

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.  Of particular note is that Citrus Magic went from a whopping 96 parts per million 1,4-dioxane to non-detectable levels.

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 me to Mrs. Meyer's, Dial, and others.

At my first press conference in 2007 on this topic, I warned companies that there was no safe harbor for flagrant offenders.  Now with the powerful support of the state of California and Attorney General Jerry Brown, our battle has turned into a mop-up operation.  Let every gross offender of public safety standards be on alert that they will be sued under Prop. 65.  The power of Prop. 65 is that it the stick that makes recalcitrant irresponsible companies reform their products.  I will use this stick on every company that scoffs at public safety.  If our children's welfare and safety and ours as well and our right to know what is in the products companies are hawking isn't enough to persuade companies to act responsibly, then removing money from their accounts will certainly have to be.  But dioxane is only part of the battle.  It is high time for Congress to begin oversight hearings on a virtually unregulated industry that continues to hawk products with estrogen mimicking hormonally active chemicals such as phalates and parabens, not to mention frank hormones, that the reproductive health of our children at risk.

Yes, we have won an important battle but constant vigilance will be needed to ensure our victory is long lasting.

Both I and the OCA pledge to keep up the pressure until every brand claiming to be 'natural' removes 1,4-dioxane and other problematic synthetic chemicals from their products.

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