Cancer-causing chemical found in bathing products

April 20, 2017  11:54

A carcinogenic chemical could be hiding in your shampoo.

The toxic substance - 1,4-dioxane - is used in a number of bath products including most pharmacy-stocked shower gels, lotions and even hand soaps.

Despite being identified as a carcinogen, companies are not required to list it on their product labels.

Now, two US Senators are making a big push and calling for the toxin to be banned.

Chemical 1,4-dioxane is a clear liquid that easily dissolves in water. It is used primarily as a solvent in the manufacturing of chemicals and as a laboratory reagent (a substance used to cause a chemical reaction).

The toxin is generated through a process called ethoxylation, in which ethylene oxide - a known breast carcinogen - is added to other chemicals to make them less harsh.

While the FDA encourages manufacturers to remove 1,4-dioxane, it is not required by federal law. Although there are a limited number of studies, research has shown that laboratory rats that breathed vapors of 1,4-dioxane during most of their lives developed cancer inside the nose and abdominal cavity.

Additionally, laboratory rats and mice that drank water containing 1,4-dioxane during most of their lives developed liver cancer.

Because of this, the US Department of Health and Human Services considers 1,4-dioxane to be a human carcinogen.

The Environmental Working Group counts at least 8,000 products on the market in the US with ingredients that may contain 1,4-dioxane. 

Although the chemical is not intentionally added to the majority of bath products, it may occur as an unintentional byproduct in some of the ingredients used.

A 2008 survey found that the chemical was in 46 percent of personal care products that were tested.

A number of companies have agreed to stop using 1,4-dioxane including Johnson & Johnson, which reformulated its baby bath products in 2014.

Now, New York senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are calling on the FDA to ban it, saying it doesn't have a real purpose in cosmetics. 

'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,' Schumer said in a statement.

The senators have also proposed in the new state budget that water providers test regularly for it and two other contaminants found in wells on Long Island or elsewhere in New York, possibly the first such state law in the nation. 

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