1,4-Dioxane: The hidden danger in your daily routine

Did you know you likely started off your day by applying a potentially cancer-causing substance to your body? 1,4-dioxane (commonly referred to as dioxane) is frequently found in everyday hygiene products such as shampoos, deodorants and cosmetics.

Buyer beware

1,4-dioxane is a synthetic industrial chemical that occurs during the manufacturing process. Exposure to high levels of 1,4-dioxane has been linked to liver and kidney damage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified 1,4-dioxane as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure.” The effects of 1,4-dioxane on human health depends on how much 1,4-dioxane you are exposed to and the length of exposure. Carcinogens, which are substances that tend to produce a cancer, can trigger cancer in a number of ways. While 1,4-dioxane has been banned in other countries due to its possible danger, the U.S. does not currently have such a ban. For now, consumers are left to educate and protect themselves.

How can I avoid it?

The vast presence of 1,4-dioxane can make it difficult to avoid. In addition to hygiene products, cleaning products, laundry detergent and even food containing residues from packaging can contain dioxane. Exposure to 1,4-dioxane occurs through ingestion of contaminated water/food or dermal contact — like when you use shampoo or deodorant.

Another challenge in avoiding 1,4-dioxane is that it’s not classified as a product ingredient, meaning you can’t simply read a label and know that the chemical is present in the product. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dioxane is a manufacturing byproduct of certain cosmetic ingredients. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recommends being aware of the following when reading ingredient labels as indicators of the presence of 1,4-dioxane: sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, and chemicals that include the clauses xynol, ceteareth, and oleth.

Affects on your water supply

While dioxane is present as a manufacturing byproduct in hygiene and cosmetic items, how does it infiltrate our water? Whenever you use a product with 1,4-dioxane (shampoo, body wash, hand soap, etc.) and it goes down the drain, it can then contaminate the water supply.

According to the EPA, 1,4-dioxane has been found in groundwater at sites throughout the country. The EPA also states that dioxane is highly mobile, and it does not appear to be biodegradable. However, since a federal drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane has not been established, water isn’t always tested for this contaminant. Almost all of the dioxane in your drinking water will rapidly enter your body through the digestive tract, according to the CDC.

Since it’s relatively resistant to biodegradation in water and soil, removing dioxane is nearly impossible according to a report from the Water Research Foundation. Once it infiltrates the water supply, it’s likely to remain there.

Protecting yourself  

The best way to protect yourself is to reduce the amount of products containing 1,4-dioxane and to take control of the quality of your drinking water by installing home water purifiers to ensure your water is safe to drink. One prominent study published in Water Science & Technology showed that filtration systems containing granular activated carbon (GAC) can reduce 1,4-dioxane levels by approximately 50 percent, and combining GAC and reverse osmosis can achieve reduction rates up to 96 percent. Home Master® undersink RO systems contain these advanced filtration technologies. While senators are currently petitioning the FDA to implement a ban on 1,4-dioxane, the current absence of legislation places the responsibility on consumers to guarantee their water is safe.

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