Here at the Consumerist we’re not trying to tell you that you need to buy organic soap, but if you do want organic soap… we think you should get what you’re paying for.
To that end we direct your attention to a report from the Organic Consumers Association, a consumer-advocacy group that hired a third party lab to test a variety of so-called “organic” personal care products for a particularly nasty byproduct of the soap-making process called 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane is considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA because it causes cancer in lab animals. It’s the sort of thing that probably shouldn’t be in anything labeled “organic.”
The study found that products that were actually certified USDA Organic were free of the 1,4-dioxane. Others… not so much.
Some of the Leading Brands Found to Contain 1,4-Dioxane:
JASON Pure Natural & Organic
Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
Kiss My Face
Nature’s Gate Organics
365, Whole Foods House Brand
You can check out the full report (pdf) here. Seventh Generation posted a lengthy response to the study in the comments of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article in which they explained that they are trying to get rid of 1,4-dioxane:
We applaud the Organic Consumer Association’s (OCA) recent research efforts to educate consumers about the safety of personal care and home cleaning products. It is important for consumers to know that Seventh Generation’s dish liquid, which does contain a minute amount of the ethoxylate 1,4-dioxane, is deemed safe according to the FDA’s and our own strict guidelines.
We are committed to eliminating all harmful chemicals from household cleaning products. Consistent with our core mission, we have worked with surfactant manufacturers for many years to reduce levels of 1,4-dixoane in ethoxylated surfactants and it is our intent to completely eliminate 1,4-dioxane from all of our products.
The OCA research reviewed personal care products such as hand soaps and shampoos alongside household cleaning products with different usage and efficacy requirements. As noted in the Los Angeles Times on March 14, 2008, “Dishwashing liquids are particularly hard to keep free of 1,4-dioxane because they require surfactants that are powerful grease cutters.” Liquid laundry detergents also require surfactants for stain removal.
Personally, we like our dish soap to actually work, so we don’t mind a little dioxane if it gets the job done.
Popular ‘natural’ personal products fail test [Seattle P-I]