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OCA and Allies Expose Best, and Worst, Laundry Detergents with 1,4-Dioxane Contamination

One of the major issues being tackled by consumer watchdog groups this year is the presence of 1,4-dioxane, a synthetic petrochemical carcinogen, in consumer products. Since hair care products, cleaning formulas and laundry detergents are all susceptible to containing this toxic chemical byproduct, which is not listed on product labels, David Steinman from the Green Patriot Working Group (GPWG) began a study in 2007 to see which consumer products are the worst offenders. This year, his organization along with the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), released the results of a portion of the study conducted last year on laundry detergents.

When cleaning products and detergents are processed using ethoxylation, a cheap technique that lessens the severity of the harsher ingredients, 1,4-dioxane is created. Since it is considered a byproduct of ethylene oxide reacting with other ingredients, 1,4-dioxane is technically considered a contaminant and thus does not have to be included on product labeling. As a result, consumers are largely unaware of its presence in major household products.

For the study, Steinman evaluated 20 different laundry detergents from both conventional and "natural" brands. Evoxa, an independent, third-party laboratory that is highly respected for its rigorous methods and high standards, conducted all product testing. The results are as follows:

Conventional brands:
1. Tide (P&G) - 55 parts per million (ppm)
2. Ivory Snow Gentle (P&G) - 31 ppm
3. Tide Free (P&G) - 29 ppm
4. Purex (Dial Corp.) - 25 ppm
5. Gain 2X Ultra (P&G) - 21 ppm
6. Cheer BrightClean Detergent (P&G) - 20 ppm
7. Era 2X Ultra (P&G) - 14 ppm
8. Arm & Hammer (Church & Dwight Co.) - 5.0 ppm
9. Wisk 2X Ultra (Sun Products Corp.) - 3.9 ppm
10. Woolite Complete Detergent (Reckitt Benckiser) - 1.3 ppm
11. All laundry detergent (Unilever) - 0.6 ppm
12. Dreft powdered detergent (P&G) - non-detectable (ND)
13. Sun Burst (Sun Products Corp.) - ND