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What You Need to Know About 1,4 Dioxane

What is 1,4 Dioxane?

1,4 Dioxane is a clear liquid with a faintly sweet odor that easily dissolves when mixed with water.

What is 1,4 Dioxane Used for?

1,4 Dioxane is primarily used as a reagent in laboratories, in the manufacture of other chemicals, and as a solvent for paints and lacquers. More concerning is its presence as a trace contaminant in beauty and personal care items such as shampoo, detergent, and cosmetics.

How Could I Be Exposed to 1,4 Dioxane?

You can be exposed to 1,4 Dioxane through skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion. Any cosmetics, detergents, or shampoos that contain 1,4 Dioxane are likely to cause skin contact exposure. Breathing air that contains 1,4 Dioxane can cause inhalation exposure, but this is not common unless you are working directly with the chemical. Ingesting food or, more commonly, water that is contaminated with 1,4 Dioxane is another way to be exposed.

What Happens to 1,4 Dioxane in the Environment?

When 1,4 Dioxane is released into the environment it can end up in the air, water, or soil. The chemical breaks down quickly in the air, and it does not attach to soil so it will migrate to the groundwater. In water, 1,4 dioxane is very stable and will not break down. Water contamination is the primary concern for 1,4 Dioxane.

What are the Health Effects of 1,4 Dioxane Exposure?

1,4 Dioxane is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is also considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA, and has been classified as 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Moreover, there is lots of evidence that 1,4 Dioxane causes cancer in laboratory animals. Besides its potential carcinogenicity, 1,4 Dioxane has additional negative health effects.

Possible health effects from short term exposure:

  • Anorexia
  • Coma
  • Coughing
  • Death
  • Drowsiness
  • Eye irritation
  • Headaches
  • Lung irritation
  • Nausea
  • Nose irritation
  • Skin irritation
  • Throat irritation
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting

The health effects of long term exposure to 1,4 Dioxane are still largely unknown. However, we do know that in lab animals 1,4 Dioxane causes liver and kidney damage.

Is There a Medical Test to Show If I’ve Been Exposed to 1,4 Dioxane?

Yes, medical tests of blood or urine can determine if you have been exposed to 1,4 Dioxane. However, these tests would need to be administered shortly after suspected exposure because 1,4 Dioxane leaves the body quickly.

How can I Lower My Family’s Risk of Exposure to 1,4 Dioxane?

The best way to lower your family’s risk of 1,4 Dioxane exposure is to avoid beauty or personal care products that contain 1,4 Dioxane. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as looking for 1,4 dioxane on a product label. Labels will not list 1,4 Dioxane since it is not an added ingredient but only an unintentional byproduct of other ingredients. These other ingredients to look out for on a product label include:

  • PEG
  • Polyethylene
  • Polyethylene glycol
  • Polyethoxyethylene
  • Ingredients with the letters “eth”
  • -oxynol

To reduce your potential exposure to 1,4 dioxane, it is best to avoid products with these ingredients listed. Reviewing the ingredient statement labeled on products before purchasing is a great way to know what is in the item before using it.

If you are concerned your water supply may be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, you should:

  • Get your water tested (and your private well if you are on well water).
  • Use bottled water for drinking and cooking if your water is contaminated. Limit showers and baths.
  • Demand the polluter connect your family to a clean water source.
  • Demand the polluter clean up the groundwater and any contamination on their property.
  • Contact an environmental lawyer for help, especially if your health or a family member’s health has been impacted by the contamination.
What Should I do If I’m Concerned About My Health?

If you are concerned about your health or the health of loved ones, you should contact your doctor or find a doctor who is familiar with 1,4 Dioxane to be evaluated. Inform them of your exposure concerns and bring any relevant test results with you if you have them.

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