Monday, March 24, 2008

How "green" are your personal and household products?

When my youngest son was only a few months old, a friend sent me an email warning me about baby products that include 1, 4-Dioxane, an Environmental Protection Agency identified carcinogen. This compound has been known to causes cancer in lab animals and now I find out its in Johnson & Johnson Baby Wash.  Once I found out about this I quickly stopped using this soap and found one that was not on the EPA list.  That was almost a year and half ago.  

Now a new study released last week by the Organic Consumers Association revealed that the carcinogenic 1, 4-Dioxane was found in nearly 50% of leading "organic" personal care products tested.  The study included a test of more than 100 organic and natural soaps, shampoos, lotions, and other products from some of our favorite "green" companies including Jason Pure, Natural & OrganicKiss My Face, Method, Seventh Generation and 365 - Whole Foods private label. Forty-seven of the products tested had detectable levels of 1,4-Dioxane. 

Are you kidding me? Nearly half of the "green" products tested had a cancer causing compound in it!  We kind of expect this from the traditional, industrial products, but from household and personal care products advertised as natural, green and organic, no way! 

"For companies to knowingly or carelessly put a carcinogen into commerce in this day and age is barbaric, I think, particularly products that have the moniker of natural or self-proclaimed organic,"  stated consumer advocate and leader of the study David Steinman in the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Organic Consumer Association, the petroleum based product, ethylene oxide, is used in many product to make them milder and 1,4-Dioxane is a by-product of ethylene oxide. In addition to being known to cause cancer, 1,4-Dioxane is also suspect kidney, neuro and respiratory toxicant. It is also a leading groundwater contaminant.  

So what are we to do? Well, any USDA certified organic product does not contain 1,4-dioxane because companies are not allowed to use ethylene oxide or any other synthetic petroleum chemical modification.  So look for the USDA Organic Seal on the products. A full list of all products tested and the levels of 1,4-dioxane can be downloaded here.  This document also includes a list of ingredients to avoid.

The Organic Consumer Association is working hard to push the organic personal care industry to stop misleading consumers and is leading a movement called "Coming Clean."  They are pressuring the USDA National Organic Program, Organic Trade Association and the industry to adopt strict national organic standards for personal care products. Currently 485 business have sign in support.  On May 14th the Organic Consumer Association and Dr. Bonner's filed a "Cease and Desist" letters to many of the companies who tested positive for 1,4-Dioxane.  Let's hope all this pressure makes a change in the right direction. 


cog4444 said...

I would like to know how these levels compare to some of the mainstream products. There should be no toxins in these so called "green" products, but I wonder what levels are considered dangerous. I'm hoping these "green" products have much lower levels of toxins than the mainstream products since we are stuck with them until these companies clean up their act!

Melissa, A Greeniac said...

The levels are similar to "green" products. David Steinman who conducted the study also did one on mainstream baby, children and adult products. See results here:

Anonymous said...

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We want to encourage everyone to "go green". If you don't do fundraising we would like to offer your members a special discount on our products. At checkout, type the word FRIEND into the coupon box, hit apply and it will take 25% off of your order. Please pass this special discount word to your members. It cannot be combined with any other offer or in support of a fundraising group.

Go Green in 2008!

Kyle Jodice

Allie said...

It's so frustrating, isn't it? I've decided I'm going to use Dr. Bronners for just about everything I can now.

Melissa, A Greeniac said...

Yes frustrating and overwhelming! I just purchased a bar of Dr. Bronner's soap and really like it and I also bought some baby soap but have not tried it yet.

Cate said...

Thanks for the heads up - I had no idea. Is it only in the Baby Wash, or their other products too? Off to read more than a few labels...

Crafty Green Poet said...

I am always saddened by how many of the products in my local green store contain nasty chemicals. Yaoh produce shampoos, conditioners etc that are almost entirely free of any artificial chemicals but their product range is a bit limited. Ecover cleaning products are okay I think.

Anonymous said...

You might want to try TerraCycle products. They make a whole line of cleaners in Home Depot that are all-natural and non-toxic and they really work!

Their website is They also get involved in all sorts of recycling programs and have tons of green fertilizers.