According to The New York Times
, a petrochemical solvent found in paints, varnishes, and some cosmetics, has once again, after gaining infamy a few years back, become the questionable household chemical de jour
(it’s like we hardly knew ‘ya, phthalates) as environmental and health advocacy groups urge
Procter & Gamble to reformulate the massively popular laundry detergent sold in the big orange bottle to contain decreased levels of the cancer-causing chemical.
Last fall, Women’s Voices for the Earth
commissioned lab tests on 20 cleaning products and found
that “problematic” levels of 1,4-dioxane were detected in original formula Tide detergent (63 parts per million) as well as fragrance-free Tide Free & Clear (89 ppm). Significantly smaller amounts of the chemical were found in Bounce Free & Clear dryer sheets (less than 1 ppm). Women’s Voices for the Earth along with other organizations presented Procter & Gamble with the findings and demanded action. A Change.org petition
was even created in an effort to pressure P&G to do something. As reported
by MNN family blogger Jenn Savedge back in February, the campaign is primarily focused on Tide Free & Clear given that the product is promoted by P&G as a "healthy" detergent ideal for newborns and babies.
The company’s response? Don’t sweat it, folks. There's no reason to freak out. “We are many, many levels of magnitude below the levels that are considered any level of safety risk,” Tim Long, a Procter & Gamble toxologist said in response to the findings, which, as of now, have not prompted the company to reformulate Tide. Although Tide is not currently on the chopping block, P&G has continually reformulated other
products in an effort to lower levels of 1,4-dioxane and other potentially harmful ingredients. In 2010, the company’s line of Herbal Essence shampoos were reformulated
so that they contained less than 10 ppm of 1,4-dioxane.
Says Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth: “We don’t fully understand how much 1,4 dioxane is needed to give someone cancer. For us, the bottom line is that Tide and Tide Free and Gentle are contaminated products.”
Interesting enough, all three Tide products do meet the criteria, on the 1,4-dioxane front at least, for the EPA’s Design for the Environment
labeling program as they contain less than 100 ppm of the chemical.
So what to do, what to do? While I don’t think that washing your knickers or your children's clothing in Tide will give you or them cancer, it’s always best to play it safe — especially when kids are involved — and to educate yourself
And I totally understand that a Tide habit is totally hard to break (there’s a reason why it’s the best-selling laundry detergent out there … the stuff works and it works well), but I recommend looking into laundry detergents that are completely 1,4-dioxane free (somewhat of a rarity, actually), contain a significantly less amount of the chemical that was found in Tide, or, at the very least, are produced by companies that are transparent about the ingredients used in their products. I’d recommend Seventh Generation
laundry detergents as both tested free of 1,4-dioxane in an extensive 2010 study
. But still, even natural products can contain extremely
trace amounts of the chemical as it was revealed in a 2008 report
published by the Organic Consumers Association
. In that report, a trace amount of the chemical was found in dish soaps produced by both Seventh Generation
(both companies set their own very stringent 1,4-dioxane guidelines and were quick to defend themselves) along with numerous other natural products.
Have past 1,4-dioxane studies caused you to make any drastic changes in the products you buy? Will you be reevaluating your use of Tide after these latest findings?