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What is 1,4-dioxane?

Good question. According to the EPA, 1,4-dioxane is a chemical substance used as a solvent for waxes, dyes, resins, and other compounds. The agency also classifies 1,4-dioxane as a "probable human carcinogen" (as well as a definite cancer-causing agent in lab animals). Banned from personal care products in the E.U., 1,4-dioxane is also associated with headaches, respiratory and skin irritation, and vertigo. However, the chemical is still allowed in the United States.

In fact, personal care products (as well as household cleansers and other products) aren't regulated by the FDA or screened for safety. As a result, many contain ingredients such as 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, another potential carcinogen, even though the U.S. Cunsumer Product Safety Commission says that the "presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern." Now, new product tests from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics show that 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde are present in many products formulated for use on babies, including baby shampoos, bubble baths, and baby lotions. The organization has not released the full list of products tested.

“There is absolutely no reason why manufacturers can’t remove hazardous chemicals in products being applied to babies’ bodies every day,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund. “Children are exposed to toxic chemicals from many sources. We need to protect them from these kinds of repeated, unnecessary exposures.”

The study found...

• 17 out of 28 products tested – 61 percent – contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane; these included Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash.

• 23 out of 28 products – 82 percent – contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm). Baby Magic Baby Lotion had the highest levels of formaldehyde.

• 32 out of 48 products – 67 percent – contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm. American Girl shower products had the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane.

Find more information and the study results on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website.

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