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Cleaning Up Their Act: One Year After the 1,4 Dioxane Scandal

In March of last year, the Organic Consumers Association published the results of a study examining 1,4 Dioxane contamination in what most of us considered to be natural and safe beauty products. This particular chemical is a known carcinogen and environmental pollutant, a cheap short-cut used to make harsh detergents more gentle on the skin. In other words, it clearly has no place in so-called natural brands like Giovanni, Jason, and Whole Foods 365. The California Attorney General’s office agreed, launching a series of lawsuits against companies whose products tested high for 1,4 dioxane but provided no warnings that their products contained high levels of this dangerous chemical.

Fast-forward one year, and the OCA conducts a follow-up study to determine if any of these companies have cleaned up their act, as most promised to do once faced with a lawsuit (and quite a bit of negative publicity, which I can’t imagine made them very happy, either). So…did your favorite body wash, hand lotion, or go-to hair spray make the cut?

First of all, I want to point out that the products with USDA certification – like Dr. Bronners, Intelligent Nutrients, and Terressential – never tested positive for 1,4 Dioxane, nor did any product with the BDIH certification. Thus, if you’re looking for a quick indicator of which products you can trust without having to Google every possible contaminant in the hopes that someone bothered to sponsor a huge study on it, looking for labels like these as a reliable rule of thumb.

That being said, let’s give credit where it’s due. 

I’d like to give the Most Improved Player Award in the Beauty Products category to Nutribiotic Super Shower Gel Shampoo, as this product went from scary levels of 1,4 Dioxane in 2008 to nada in 2009. Honorable mentions go to Alba Passion Fruit Body Wash, Aura Cacia Bubble Bath, and 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods) Shower Gel in Citrus Grapefruit. Overall, brands like Jason, Giovanni, Alba, and Kiss My Face have also clearly taken the issue seriously, with no detectable 1,4 Dioxane contamination this time around for all products tested.

I’m thrilled to see that these affordable natural skin and hair care brands are finally as pure as the image they project. At the same time, I wish it hadn’t taken an expensive study funded by the good people at the Organic Consumers Association to scare them straight. We clearly need stricter regulations in this country that require third-party testing for dangerous contaminants and appropriate labeling. After all, what good is being a vigilant label-reader if companies can sneak in the very chemicals we’re seeking to avoid, without telling us?

Written by Terri Bly

Terri Bly is the founder of The Nature of Beauty, LTD, an all-eco website, shop, and spa. She is a freelance writer, currently residing in Minneapolis.


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