Two senators are on a crusade to ban a chemical that might be on your face right now.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) are finally working for transparency…in body product ingredient labels. They’re concerned about a chemical called 1,4-dioxane, which is found in products like body wash, shampoo, sunscreen, and moisturizer, which may cause cancer when heavily concentrated.
Schumer and Gillibrand are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban 1,4-dioxane on the grounds that it could be carcinogenic. Government agencies don’t have a concrete answer on whether or not the substance causes cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services says that the chemical is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” based on data from animal studies. The EPA says it’s “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
Just how much of this stuff is sneaking into your products? Fortunately, not very much. FDA scientists found it “at levels up to 279 ppm [parts per million] in personal care products.”
However, that amount could still be dangerous. More than 85 ppm of 1,4-dioxane in children’s products is cause for concern, according to the FDA. And when we wash off those lotions and scrubs, the questionable chemical goes down the drain, too.
New Yorkers – represented by Schumer and Gillibrand in the Senate – have special reason to be concerned. According to NewsDay:
“Survey results released last year showed 71 percent of water suppliers tested on Long Island detected trace amounts of the chemical — at levels that could pose a 1-in-a-million cancer risk after prolonged exposure. Nationwide, only 6.9 percent of water suppliers tested reported concentrations with the same cancer risk.”
The chemical solvent is banned in beauty products in Canada and listed as a “possible human carcinogen” under California’s Prop 65. Schumer’s petition notes that getting it out of our products won’t be very difficult. A common (and inexpensive) process called “vacuum stripping” can rid our shower goodies of the chemical.
The risk of developing cancer due to 1,4-dioxane exposure is small – but it can be avoided with a little ingredient label sleuthing.
The chemical is a byproduct, not an ingredient, so you won’t find it listed in the ingredients of your body wash. In the meantime, if you’d like to avoid 1,4-dioxane in your cosmetics routine, scan labels for “PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene and -eth-.” These ingredients are clues to the presence of 1,4-dioxane.