1,4 Dioxanes May Be Lurking in Organic Bodycare

By Elizabeth Marglin

Just because a skincare product calls itself organic doesn’t necessarily make it free of petrochemical by-products. Case in point: The watch- dogs at Organic Consumers Association (OCA) just announced a study that found 1,4-dioxane, a cancer-causing contaminant released through the manufacturing process—in numerous natural and organic soaps, shampoos, shower gels, and dish soaps, including products made by Jason Natural, Alba, Kiss My Face, Seventh Generation, and Nature’s Gate. These companies use eythylene oxide, a petrochemical, to make harsh ingredients milder. The process (called ethoxylation) generates 1,4-dioxane, which the skin absorbs all too easily.

The story may have a happy ending, however. The companies have taken the OCA’s findings seriously and are looking for alternatives. As Lisa Lehndorff , a spokeswoman for Jason Natural and Alba, said, “Reviewing the formulas is a top priority,” so look for updates in the coming months.

In the meantime, how do you know if your shampoo contains 1,4-dioxane? You won’t find it on the ingredient label since the industry doesn’t require by-products to be listed, but you can look for the USDA organic seal—ethoxylated products can’t qualify for it. Or simply avoid any product with ingredients that have the following in their name: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other eth), PEGs, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol