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For Immediate Release: June 18th, 2008
Contact:  Stacy Malkan, 510-848-5701, smalkan@hcwh.org; Shannon Coughlin, 415-346-8223 x14, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Statement About California Proposition 65 Lawsuit on 1,4-dioxane Contamination

SAN FRANCISCO--In March, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and author David Steinman released product tests that found 1,4-dioxane – a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer” -- in a large number of leading personal care products labeled “organic” and “natural.” Out of 100 products tested, 46 products were contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, the byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation. None of the products listed 1,4-dioxane on the label.

On May 29, the Attorney General’s Office in California filed a lawsuit against manufacturers of some of the contaminated brands for failing to provide a warning label on products as required by the state’s Proposition 65. The OCA is now asking the manufacturers of 1,4-dioxane contaminated brands to make a formal commitment in writing to stop using ethoxylated ingredients in their “natural” body care products by Jan. 1, 2009.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics strongly urges all manufacturers of personal care products, in both the natural and conventional sectors, to eliminate ethoxylated chemicals from products as soon as possible. Ethoxylation is the process of adding ethylene oxide, a known breast carcinogen, to other chemicals in order to make them less harsh, a conversion that creates 1,4 dioxane. For example, sodium laurel sulfate, a chemical that is harsh on the skin, is often converted to the less harsh chemical sodium laureth sulfate (the “eth” denotes ethoxylation), which causes the product to contain 1,4 dioxane.

“It is unacceptable for products we rub on our bodies and on our babies heads to contain a known carcinogen,” said Lisa Archer, National Coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, noting that previous product tests have found 1,4 dioxane in many conventional brands of shampoo and children’s bubble baths, including the top selling baby shampoo in the US. “It’s time for the beauty industry to give up the nasty habit of ethoxylating chemicals. It’s especially troubling to see this problem in the natural products sector. Consumers need to be able to trust that ‘natural’ products don’t contain synthetic chemicals suspected of causing cancer.”

The chemical 1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen, a probable human carcinogen, and is also a suspected of being toxic to the kidney, brain and respiratory tract. Studies show that it readily penetrates the skin. More than 56 ingredients are associated with the contaminant, including sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, and chemicals that include the clauses "xynol," "ceteareth," and "oleth." There are many inexpensive and effective alternatives to these chemicals. The OCA study shows that 1,4-dioxane is nonexistent in a variety of products produced and certified under the USDA National Organic Program, as well as other products.  

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is concerned that consumers cannot easily choose to avoid 1,4-dioxane because companies are not required to list it on product labels. “We need to pass new laws that require cosmetics companies to fully list product ingredients, and to use the safest ingredients possible,” Archer said. “Huge loopholes in current federal labeling law allow companies to not tell consumers about the fragrance chemicals and toxic contaminants in their products. That’s just wrong.”

For a list of ingredients to look out for on a product label that will indicate the likely presence of 1,4-dioxane, click here.


Founding members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics include: Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, National Black Environmental Justice Network, National Environmental Trust and Women's Voices for the Earth.