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The Evil Carcinogen That’s Lurking in Your Toiletries


According to research, it’s very likely that a carcinogen is lurking in your shampoo, soap, shower gel and other toiletries. The toxin — 1,4-dioxane — is found in many personal care items, and despite being identified as a cancer-causing agent, manufacturers aren’t required to list it on product labels. Two senators are calling for the FDA to ban the chemical.

Only a few studies have looked at the health effects of 1,4-dioxane, but research on rats that breathed in vapors of it for most of their lives developed cancer in the abdomen and nose. In addition, lab animals that drank water laced with the toxin developed liver cancer. Based on these findings, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classified the chemical as a human carcinogen.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s database, at least 8,000 products in the U.S. market may contain 1.4-dioxane. Moreover, a 2008 survey found it in 46 percent of the products tested. In most cases, the toxin isn’t intentionally added but is a byproduct of making some of the ingredients. It is a clear liquid that readily dissolves in water, so companies often use it as a solvent in the manufacturing process. Although the FDA has encouraged the chemical’s removal, federal law doesn’t prohibit its use.

Why Senators Are Calling for Ban

New York senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer are calling for an FDA ban. “The fact that 1,4-dioxane, a potentially dangerous chemical, is hiding out in everyday products expected to make us clean is very disturbing, and to make matters worse, likely carcinogens like this one can be even more harmful to kids,” said Schumer in a statement.

How to Avoid 1.4-Dioxane

Hopefully, the senators will succeed in their efforts to remove 1,4-dioxane from the market, but in the meantime, it’s best to avoid it. The most likely products that contain the toxin are those with suds, such as shampoo, bubble bath, liquid soap, hair dyes and hair relaxers. Since the carcinogen isn’t listed in product labels, experts recommend looking for ingredients that are made with it. These include the following:

  • PEG compounds
  • polyethylene
  • polyethylene glycol
  • polyoxymethylene
  • sodium laureth sulfate
  • oleth
  • ceteareth
  • compounds with “eth”
  • xynol

Even many so-called “natural” products contain the toxin, so check the labels on those items as well before making a purchase. The Organic Consumers Association reports that products from the below companies are free of 1.4-dioxane:

  • Bronner’s
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Aubrey Organics
  • Desert Essence
  • Dr. Hauschka
  • EO
  • TerrEssential
  • Avalon Organics
  • Zia Fresh

While 1,4-dioxane is one of the most dangerous chemicals in personal care products, such items contain many other unhealthful components. If a product label lists ingredients that you can’t pronounce, it’s likely not something you want to put on your body.

Aside from toiletries, the toxin has been found in some municipal water supplies. If you choose to install a home water-treatment system, look for a model certified to remove dioxane.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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