This Chemical May Be In Your Personal Care Products

by Joseph D. Lyons
Mireya Acierto/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

There is potentially a dangerous "likely carcinogen" lurking in lots of the personal care products you have in your bathroom at home, and it might not even be on the label. Luckily, New York's two senators want to ban 1,4 dioxane, a chemical that is considered a likely carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Human and Health Services, but is also found in products like shampoo, lotion, and soap. That should be a no-brainer, right?

Well, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand think so, despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration hasn't stepped in to regulate it. It would seem common-sense for an EPA finding to be used by the FDA to keep consumers safe, but that's just not how government agencies always work. One agency's findings doesn't always transfer to their counterpart immediately. That's why the senators have drafted a petition to pressure the FDA to moving on the issue. Schumer released a statement on the matter:

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.

Worse still is the fact that it's not required to go on the labels of all products, so you might be using things with it and be totally unaware. This even applies to products that are marketed to kids, who are those most at risk, according to Schumer.

After Congress passed amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA moved the item to its list of top 10 dangerous chemicals to evaluate. Already they have found that short-term exposure causes irritation and long-term exposure can cause kidney and liver problems, Newsday reported.

This is of particular concern to New Yorkers because there have been high levels of the chemical found in Long Island water sources. New York's The Cut reported that an amount of the chemical that results in a one-in-a-million cancer risk was found in 71 percent of water in the area, compared with just under 7 percent nationwide.

Experts at the University of Michigan in March called on the EPA to review the chemical, noting that it had been found in Ann Arbor's groundwater too. Despite the concentration in Long Island, this is an issue that can affect Americans nationwide.

The Environmental Working Group applauded the senators for making the push with the FDA. They claimed in 2008 that dioxane 1,4 can be found in 46 percent of personal-care products. That may have decreased, but we have no way of knowing, since some companies aren't obligated to list every ingredient.

Banning this chemical may be the first step, but more legislation and regulations are needed to ensure whatever personal care products you buy at the grocery store are safe.