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Tests show household products have 1,4-dioxane levels that exceed upcoming tighter NYS limits

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, with some of the products the group tested in 2019 for 1,4-dioxane. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nearly 70% of dishwashing soap tested by a state-funded pollution prevention group had detections of 1,4-dioxane at levels higher than soon-to-be implemented state standards.

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, which is based at the Rochester Institute of Technology and is funded by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, recently tested 313 household and personal care products for the compound, said Kate Winnebeck, the institute’s emerging contaminants program manager.

The synthetic compound 1,4-dioxane is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen and has been found in trace levels in Long Island drinking wells. A state law passed in 2019 will limit the amount allowed in household and personal care products to 2 parts per million beginning December 2022 and 1 part per million as of December 2023.

"This is a first pass, if you will, to really identify priority product categories," said Winnebeck, who presented the findings Nov. 18 during the first of two virtual meetings on the new law’s rollout.

Tests performed in collaboration with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control found dish soap had the highest mean level of 1,4-dioxane, at 2.5 parts per million and with 69% of the product exceeding the upcoming state standard.

Body cleansing products had the second-highest percentage of those with detections above the state standard at 62%, shampoo at 59% and laundry detergent at 53%. Other household product categories tested but that did not have detections of the compound were dishwasher detergent and toilet cleaners. Levels were detected in 6% of surface cleaners. No levels were detected in the cosmetics tested.

Winnebeck did not identify the brands tested but said the products were all purchased off the shelf.

Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment conducted its own test in 2019 and found 1,4-dioxane in 65 out of 80 household products.

"The bottom line is the vast majority of these products need to reformulate," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the environmental group.

While 1,4-dioxane in drinking water is primarily associated with industrial sites, because it was used in solvents like those used to clean machine parts, the chemical is also found in household products, produced as a byproduct of the manufacturing process.

Manufacturers will need more time to shift product chemistry now that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted supply chains, said Kristin DiNicolantonio, director of stakeholder communications at the Washington D.C.-based American Cleaning Institute. She also noted that a recent EPA analysis found that regular use of cleaning products did not pose an unreasonable risk to consumers related to 1,4-dioxane.

Officials during the meeting discussed regulations regarding issuing one-year waivers to manufacturers that would give them additional time to comply.

"We do understand there is a pretty significant lead time they need to undertake to reformulate their products or get into compliance," said John Vana, chief of the DEC’s pollution prevention unit.

The second virtual session is set for Wednesday at 2 p.m. Participants must register in advance and can do so by visiting dec.ny.gov/chemical/121658.html.

CONCERNING NUMBERS

1,4-dioxane

A synthetic compound classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen

313

Number of household and personal care products recently tested for the compund by the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute

69%

Percentage of dishwashing soaps tested by the state’s Pollution Prevention Institute with detections of 1,4-dioxane at levels higher than soon-to-be implemented state standards

62%

Percentage of body cleansing products with detections above the state standard

59%

Percentage of shampoos with detections above the state standard

53%

Percentage of laundry detergents with detections above the state standard

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