Why is 1,4 dioxane found in “organic” shampoos?

You’ve made the switch to natural or organic personal care products in an effort to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.  You recognize that the words “natural” and “organic” don’t necessarily mean all that much when it comes to personal care products but you’ve read the labels and are confident in what you bought.  Then, just when you were confident you had done a good thing, you find out that many so-called natural or organic personal care products contain 1,4-dioxane.  What?  The label doesn’t disclose it.  Why the heck would there be 1,4-dioxane in my organic shampoo? 

The Organic Consumers Association released a study that found 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen, in products from JASON Pure Natural & Organic, Giovanni Organic Cosmetics, Kiss My Face and Nature’s Gate Organics.  About 50% of the products tested had 1,4 dioxane.  A complete list of the products can be found here

The reason?  1,4-dioxane is a contaminant resulting from the ethoxylation.  To make certain ingredients mild, ethylene oxide is added.  A byproduct of this process is 1,4 dioxane. 
So, you can avoid it by not buying products with myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth or any other “eth”; also skip PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene or oxynol.  Another trick – buy products that are certified USDA Organic.  All the USDA Organic certified products in the study were 1,4-dioxane free, including Dr. Bronner’s, Sensibility Soaps (Nourish) and Terressentials (one of my faves!). 
1,4 dioxane is found in numerous conventional personal care products, including Hello Kitty bubble bath to Huggies baby wash to Johhson’s baby wash.  In fact, in conventional products, 1,4-dioxane is found in 57% of baby soap and 34% of body lotions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.