In an earlier article, I wrote that the United States Food And Drug Administration (USFDA) had banned marketing of over-the-counter (OTC) consumer wash products containing Triclosan and Triclocarbon due to concerns over their side-effects. As it turns out, there is another chemical, found in soaps and shampoos that might need to be banned. Studies conducted on 1,4-dioxane suggest that it is probably a carcinogen.
The issue of safety of 1,4-dioxane was first raised by the National Cancer Institute in the US in the 1970s. Its studies found a correlation between 1,4-dioxane and cancer in animals when administered through feed in high doses. However, the FDA noted that the amount of 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics was much lower than the amount used in the National Cancer Institute studies.
1,4-dioxane is not an ingredient in personal care products, but rather a contaminant. Therefore, neither is it required to be listed in the ingredients list of a product, nor has the USFDA prescribed or recommended a maximum limit.
Fast forward a few decades, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified 1,4-dioxane as "a probable human carcinogen". The EPA went a step further in its 'Technical Fact Sheet' on 1,4-dioxane, published in 2014, and classified it as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure". However, it did mention that while 1,4-dioxane may also pass through the skin, the studies indicate that much of it will evaporate before it is absorbed. I believe that the safety concerns remain due to the sheer amount of soap and shampoo we are likely to use over the years.
1,4-dioxane is not an ingredient in personal care products, but rather a contaminant, because it forms as a byproduct during the manufacturing process of certain cosmetics. Therefore, neither is it required to be listed in the ingredients list of a product, nor has the USFDA prescribed or recommended a maximum limit. While the USFDA has not prescribed a recommended maximum limit on the amount of 1,4-dioxane, it continues to monitor the amount present in personal care products.
The evidence available indicates that the exposure to 1,4-dioxane from soaps, shampoos and cosmetics is not high enough to cause immediate harm, at least in the short term. However, like I said earlier, considering the fact that we use these products on a daily basis, I believe that there is a long term safety concern. I think that product labels, much like packaged food products containing allergen warnings, should state whether or not they possibly contain 1,4-dioxane. I also think that studies need to be conducted on the long-term effects of exposure to 1,4-dioxane through personal care products and cosmetics. After all, as we learned in school, 'Prevention is Better than Cure'.