1, 4 Dioxane is known in the green beauty world as one of the biggest "no-no ingredients".  It's a confusing chemical because you won't necessarily find it listed on the ingredient label.  Recently, I discovered Senators Schumer and Gillibrand had petitioned the FDA back in 2017 to ban this hazardous, probable carcinogenic chemical and keep it out of consumer products. 

1,4 Dioxane was discovered in the groundwater and drinking water on Long Island  which prompted the NY senators to take action.  The chemical is in and out of the news as it turns up in tap water (including well water) across the country.  (click here for an interactive map)  So let's take a closer look at 1,4 Dioxane... 


What is 1, 4 Dioxane?   

According to the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, it's a Synthetic Organic Compound (SOC), which is never found in nature.  It is the by-product created by the combination of other chemicals typically used to make products foam. It's found in solvents, detergents and personal care products.  Research shows that it is readily absorbed into the skin. 

1, 4 Dioxane is a by-product of a processing method called ethoxylation which is used to reduce the risk of skin irritation from petroleum-based ingredients.  Imagine:  an unnecessary, hazardous chemical being used to decrease the irritation caused by another unnecessary, hazardous chemical!  

The EPA has classified 1,4 Dioxane as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”  It is also listed in California's official registry of chemicals known to cause cancer. 

The EWG rates this a big fat 8 on the hazard scale and believes that 46% of personal care products on the market may contain the ingredient.  It is scary to think that this is found in the close contact products we use daily to get ourselves and our babies and children clean.  The industry argues that there isn't enough of it in a single product to be concerned with.  The truth is, nobody really knows the cumulative effect when combined with other contaminated products used multiple times throughout the day.  

While there is vacuum stripping technology that will easily remove this chemical from products, unfortunately manufacturers are not yet required to do so. 


Where is it found? 

Everyday toiletry products including: shampoo, body wash, shower gel, soap, bubble bath and moisturizers.   It's also found in common household detergents. 

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment tested products in 2018 and the report revealed that twenty-three of 30 body washes, detergents, baby products and shampoos tested positive. 

Read that report HERE to see the specific brand name offenders. 

1, 4 Dioxane can also be found in tap water from leaking underground storage tanks.  Unfortunately it's  a difficult chemical to completely remove from household drinking water - even with reverse osmosis. 

While we applaud Schumer and Gillibrand for their efforts to get the FDA to ban this chemical, it's likely going to be a long, tough fight.  So how can you protect yourself and family in the meantime? 


How To Limit Exposure to 1,4 Dioxane:

Because the ingredient is not required to be listed on the label, you'll need to look for any 'ethoxylated' ingredients to indicate the presence of 1,4 Dioxane.  These sometimes include "-eth" or "-oxynol" in part of their names, such as "phenoxyethanol." Two of the most common ingredients that are problematic for 1,4-dioxane contamination are "sodium laureth sulfate" and "potassium laureth phosphate". 

Here is a more extensive list of commonly used ethoxylated ingredients from The Citizens Campaign for the Environment:

Anything with "PEG"
Polyethylene glycol
Sodium laureth sulfate
Potassium laureth phosphate

We also recommend avoiding synthetic fragrance because the above ingredients may often be hiding in it.  For a complete list of the ingredients we avoid at The Choosy Chick - please consult the Big Baddies list which can be found HERE.


Photo:  Brodie Vissers Shopify Burst
Margot White