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When Going "Green" Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

When Going "Green" Can Be Hazardous to Your Health


Concern over potential health risks associated with synthetic beauty products has fueled today's growing demand for natural alternatives. Shampoos, facial scrubs, moisturizers, and many other body care products now come in organic form. A recent study, however, claims that consumers may be getting duped at the health-food store when they slap down a few extra bucks for their favorite "green" products. The study says that a cancer-causing substance was discovered in nearly half of the 100 products tested, all of which contained the words natural or organic on their labels. Though these findings are alarming, the group behind the study says that, armed with a little information, consumers can avoid buying products with this potentially harmful chemical.

Products Found to Contain 1,4-Dioxane

The study in question, commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), looked at 100 products that are marketed as being natural, organic, or green. Forty-seven of the products tested were found to contain 1,4-Dioxane, a byproduct of a process used to soften abrasive ingredients. The FDA has labeled this chemical a probable human carcinogen in light of studies showing that the substance causes cancer in animals. The companies that had at least one product which contained 1,4-Dioxane include:

  • 365 (Whole Foods Market Store Brand)
  • Alba
  • Earth Friendly Products
  • Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
  • Healthy Times
  • Kiss My Face
  • method
  • Nature's Gate
  • Seventh Generation

Hain Celestial Group, maker of the Alba and JASON product lines, said that the company would reconsider its product formulations in light of the study. Another company, method, which had two products that tested positive for the chemical, says it intentionally doesn't label its products as "natural"  because the company's manufacturing processes generate 1,4-Dioxane. Instead, the company uses the term "naturally derived" on its product labels.

While the quantity at which 1,4-Dioxane begins to pose a health risk is unclear, the FDA says that the amounts contained in body products are safe. However, the agency encourages cosmetic companies to limit the chemical in their products as much as possible.

Leading Brands Which Didn't Contain 1,4-Dioxane

Companies offering one or more natural, organic, or green products, none of which showed any signs of 1,4-Dioxane, include:

  • Aubrey Organics
  • Desert Essence
  • Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps
  • Dr. Hauschka Skin Care
  • EO
  • Nourish
  • Origins
  • ShiKai
  • TerrEssentials
  • Zia Natural Skincare

While there are no rules regulating the use of such words as natural and organic on product labels, some companies have certified their products as organic under USDA food standards. Such companies include Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, TerrEssentials, and Sensibility Soaps. Consumer health advocate and author David Steinman, who oversaw the OCA's study, said an important finding was that none of the USDA certified products contained detectable levels of 1,4-Dioxane.

Avoiding Chemicals in Your Body Care Products

The OCA says that most natural body care products aren't USDA certified and contain only small amounts of organic extracts to make the products appear safer than their traditional counterparts. In light of all this, the OCA recommends that consumers follow these steps to avoid buying products that contain potentially harmful chemicals:

  • Review the results of the OCA study, included below, to see which products contain 1,4-Dioxane.
  • Read the ingredients on products before purchasing them. As a general rule, the OCA recommends that people avoid buying products that have ingredients whose names are difficult to pronounce. To avoid products with 1,4-Dioxane, consumers should check for the following ingredients: polyethylene, polyoxyethylene (POE), and polyethylene glycol (PEG). The syllables -eth- and -oxynol- also indicate that the product may contain 1,4-Dioxane.  
  • Buy products that are USDA organic certified. USDA standards prohibit products from being refined in ways that create toxic byproducts.

Full Results of the OCA Study

The following lists show the results of the OCA study. In the first list, the amount of 1,4 Dioxane - measured in parts per million - found in each product is shown.  The second list shows which products did not have detectable levels of the chemical (the detection limit for the study was 0.2 parts per million).

Products That Had 1,4 Dioxane

  • 365 Everyday Value Dish Liquid - 1.6
  • 365 Everyday Value Shampoo - 2.2
  • 365 Everyday Value Shower Gel - 20.1
  • Alba Passion Fruit Body Wash - 18.2
  • Alba Replenishing Shampoo - 0.7
  • Aura Cacia Natural Aromatherapy Bubble Bath -14.9
  • Circle of Friends No Tearski Shampoo - 2.1
  • Citrus Magic 100% Natural Dish Liquid - 97.1
  • Earth Friendly Products Ultra Dishmate (Natural Almond) - 13.6
  • Earth Friendly Products Ultra Dishmate - 19.0
  • Earth Therapeutics Loofah Exfoliating Scrub Oatmeal & Honey - 0.9
  • Ecco Bella Moisturizing Shampoo Vanilla - 0.2
  • Ecover Dishwashing Liquid - 2.4
  • Emerald Forest with Sapayul Botanical Shampoo - 1.7
  • Giovanni Cleanse Body Wash - 10.6
  • Giovanni Golden Wheat Shampoo - 4.1
  • Giovanni Smooth as Silk Deep Moisture Shampoo - 2.1
  • Grandpa's Pine Tar Shampoo - 7.8
  • Healthy Times Baby's Herbal Garden Honeysuckle Baby Bath - 5.3
  • Healthy Times Baby's Herbal Garden Pansy Flower Shampoo - 8.2
  • Hugo Vanilla & Sweet Orange Conditioner - 0.6
  • Jason Apricot Satin Soap - 9.2
  • Jason Fragrance Free Satin Soap - 11.9
  • Jason Tea Tree Scalp Normalizing Shampoo - 7.9
  • Kiss My Face Early to Bed Shower Gel & Foaming Bath - 6.2
  • Kiss My Face Moisture Soap - 6.3
  • Kiss My Face Obsessively Organic Lavender & Chamomile Self Foaming Liquid Soap - 0.3
  • Life Tree Citrus Fresh Dish Soap - 0.7
  • Method Creamy Hand Wash - 7.0
  • Method Dish Naturally Derived Ultra Concentrate - 27.5
  • Nature's Gate Awapuhi Volumizing Shampoo - 3.5
  • Nature's Gate Baby Soothing Shampoo - 1.6
  • Nature's Gate Moisturizing Liquid Soap - 2.4
  • Nature's Gate Organics Fruit Blend Liquid Soap - 0.3
  • NutriBiotic Super Shower Gel Shampoo with GSE (fresh fruit) - 32.2
  • Origins for Men Skin Diver Active Charcoal Body Wash - 3.1
  • Origins Ginger Burst Savory Body Wash - 2.0
  • Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid - 20.3
  • Rainbow Gentle Antibacterial Soap - 1.3
  • Rainbow Soap for Kids - 1.1
  • Sea-Chi Organics Tasmanian Lavender Shampoo - 7.5
  • Seventh Generation Lemongrass & Clementine Zest Natural Dish Liquid - 1.5
  • Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid - 1.9
  • ShenMin Vitalize Shampoo for Thin, Fine Hair - 2.7
  • Shikai Moisturizing Shower Gel - 2.5
  • Ultra-Hair Conditioning Shampoo - 1.2

Products with No Detectable Levels of 1,4 Dioxane

  • 365 Everyday Value Body Lotion
  • Alba Moisturizing Foam Shave Mango Vanilla
  • Alba Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel (Island Citrus)
  • Aubrey Organics Natural Baby & Kids Bath Soap
  • Aubrey Organics Natural Baby & Kids Shampoo
  • Aubrey Organics Swimmer's Normalizing Shampoo
  • Avalon Organics Glycerin Hand Soap
  • Avalon Organics Nourishing Shampoo
  • Burt's Bees Body Wash
  • Burt's Bees Citrus & Ginger Root Hand Soap
  • Burt's Bees Very Volumizing Shampoo
  • Circle of Friends Buenas Noches Bubble Bath
  • Clorox Green Works Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Clorox Green Works Natural Dilutable Cleaner
  • Desert Essence Body Wash
  • Desert Essence Organics Hair Care Lemon Tea Tree Shampoo
  • Dr. Bronner's and Sundog's Magic Orange Lavender Organic Lotion
  • Dr. Bronner's and Sundog's Magic Organic Lotion
  • Dr. Bronner's Magic All-One Organic Fair Shikakai Conditioning Hair Rinse
  • Dr. Bronner's Magic All-One Organic Fair Trade Shikakai Soap
  • Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps 18-in-1 Hemp Almond Pure Castile Soap
  • Dr. Hauschka Apricot and Sea Buckthorn Shampoo
  • Dr. Hauschka Body Wash Fresh
  • EO All Purpose Soap
  • EO Nourishing Shower Gel
  • EO Volumizing Shampoo
  • Head Organics Clearly Head Shampoo
  • Herbal Clear PG Free Aloe Fresh Deodorant
  • Jason Apricot Deodorant Stick
  • Kiss My Face Everyday spf 15 Moisturizer
  • Kiss My Face Obsessively Organic Whenever Shampoo
  • Lamas Soy Hydrating Shampoo for Chemically Treated, Dry or Damaged Hair
  • Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera 80 Facial Wash
  • Method Hand Wash
  • Nature's Gate Lavender & Aloe Deodorant
  • Nature's Gate Organics Fruit Blend Shampoo
  • Nourish Food for Your Healthy Skin Organic Chai Vanilla Body Wash from Sensibility Soaps
  • Nourish Food for Your Healthy Skin Organic Fragrance-Free Hand Wash from Sensibility Soaps
  • Nourish Organic Vanilla Yogurt Body Butter
  • Origins Ginger Up Aromatic Conditioner
  • Origins Hydrating Body Lotion
  • Origins Sunshine State SPF 20 Sunscreen
  • Pure Basic Natural Bath& Body Wash Wild Banana Vanilla
  • Shikai Natural Everyday Shampoo
  • Shikai Natural Shampoo
  • TerrEssential Organic Baby Wash
  • TerrEssential Organic Body Wash Organic Cool Mint
  • TerrEssential Organic Flower Therapy Silken Velvet Body Lotion
  • TerrEssential Organic Fragrance-Free Facial Cleanser
  • TerrEssential Organic Real Soap for Hands Jammin' Spice with Organic Tea Tree Oil
  • TerrEssential Organic Sultry Spice Pure Earth Hair Wash
  • Zia Fresh Cleansing Gel with Sea Algae
  • Zia Skin Basics Daily Moisture Screen SPF 15 with Cucumber

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