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Citizens Campaign says 65 of 80 household products contain 1,4-dioxane - Study funded by LICF

Environmental group says 65 of 80 household products contain 1,4-dioxane

The chemical, designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen, has been found in dozens of Long Island drinking water wells.

By David M. Schwartz, Newsday

On Tuesday, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment released a study that says tests found the chemical 1,4-dioxane in 65 of 80 household products, including baby products, shampoos, detergents and body washes, although most at levels well below what the FDA considers safe for consumers.

Tests found the potentially toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane in 65 of 80 household products, including trace amounts in some baby products, shampoos, detergents and body washes, according to a report released Tuesday.

The products with the highest levels include Victoria Secret’s shower gels, Tide Original laundry detergent and Dreft Stage 1/Newborn baby laundry detergent, according to the test commissioned by Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a Farmingdale-based group that is pushing a statewide ban of 1,4-dioxane in household products.

The group said the consumer products can be harmful to Long Island's groundwater, and a concern if absorbed through the skin at higher levels. Manufacturers, meanwhile, said their products are safe to use and called the report a distraction from industrial pollutants.

1,4-dioxane, designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen after a lifetime of exposure to drinking water, has been found in dozens of Long Island drinking water wells. Water providers have estimated it will cost $840 million to install treatment systems.

While 1,4-dioxane in the water is primarily associated with industrial sites, because it was used in solvents like those used to clean machine parts, the chemical is also found in household products, produced as a byproduct of the manufacturing process.

“It’s a critical concern for contaminating our groundwater and drinking water,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who added it also could be a concern for skin exposure. "We really were shocked at some of these results."

A study in July by the group found 23 of 30 products contained 1,4-dioxane, and the group used additional funding from the Long Island Community Foundation to test 50 more products.

Manufacturers said their products are safe to use and called the study a “distraction” from the real issue with 1,4-dioxane contamination in groundwater, which has been found at industrial sites on Long Island.

“Consumers can feel confident in the safety of their favorite and highly trusted household products," James Darr, manager of state government relations and public policy for the Household & Commercial Products Association, said in a statement. "The evidence clearly shows that they are not the source of Long Island’s decades long water contamination issues.”

Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, reiterated that 1,4-dioxane is not deliberately added to consumer products.

"Given the extraordinarily low levels of 1,4-dioxane that might remain at trace quantities in certain materials and products, the report’s misleading claims are confusing in their implication of potential risks to consumers," he said in a statement.

He said while many of the levels fall within U.S. and global guidelines for products, companies "control and minimize the presence of 1,4 dioxane in their products and raw materials and routinely take necessary steps to reduce its presence to the lowest levels possible, so consumers can continue to safely use their products."

No federal or state standard exists for the amount of 1,4-dioxane allowed in consumer products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website cites a European Commission report that concluded products are considered safe for consumers at 10,000 parts per billion or below. Six products tested had levels at or above 10,000 parts per billion, with the highest coming in at 17,000 parts per billion.

Lifelong exposure to 0.35 parts per billion of 1,4-dioxane in drinking water represents a 1-in-a-million cancer risk, according to the EPA. In December, a panel of state health and environmental officials, water providers and academics recommended a drinking water standard of nearly three times that — 1 part per billion for 1,4-dioxane.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment tested products bought at Long Island stores and found the chemical in both high-end products and less-expensive alternatives, and products for men and women. Esposito said that on the positive side, many of the products marketed as environmentally friendly had no detectable levels of 1,4-dioxane.

"A lot of these green products really are green," she said.

She said the group originally tested the household products after seeing 1,4-dioxane contamination in drinking water supplies in areas without a history of industrial use, such as Montauk, Smithtown and Huntington.

The products were tested by ALS Laboratory in Rochester, New York, which is certified by the state Department of Health and can detect down to 25 parts per billion.

The products with the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane were Victoria's Secret Bombshell Body Wash, Victoria's Secret Love Body Wash, Tide Original Detergent, Ivory Snow 2X Ultra Detergent, Dreft Stage1/Newborn Detergent, Gain Original Detergent, Tide Simply + Oxi Detergent, The Home Store Lemon Scented Dish Soap, Baby Magic Hair and Body Wash, Up & Up (Target) Free + Clear Dish Soap, Persil Original Detergent, and Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion Shampoo.

Environmentalists and water providers are pushing to ban 1,4-dioxane from products as state health officials have said they plan to set an enforceable drinking standard for 1,4-dioxane. Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) have sponsored bills to ban the products.

Removing 1,4-dioxane from drinking water is costly and expensive. Only one system in New York — at a Suffolk County Water Authority well — has been approved for use in a drinking water system. There's no way for households to remove the chemical on their own, experts said.

“We are proud to continue funding Citizens Campaign for the Environment’s important research that is raising awareness regarding the significant threat 1,4-dioxane, a likely carcinogen found in everyday personal care items, poses to our region’s drinking water,” says David Okorn, executive director of the Long Island Community Foundation. “Identifying common household products that contain this hazardous chemical is a major step toward empowering the public in safeguarding their health, and demonstrates the urgent need for legislation to protect our residents and Long Island’s sole source aquifer.”

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