Carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane Found in Leading Organic Brand Personal Care Products

March 17, 2008

A newly released study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group with over 500,000 members, and overseen by environmental health consumer advocate David Steinman, analyzes leading “natural” and “organic” brand shampoos, body washes, lotions, and other personal care products for the presence of the undisclosed carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane. A reputable third-party laboratory known for rigorous testing and chain-of-custody protocols, performed all the testing.

Ethoxylation, a method companies use to provide mildness to a product that has harsh ingredients, requires the use of the Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product. 1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer” under California’s state law, Proposition 65. 1,4-dioxane is also suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA, and is a leading groundwater contaminant. Although previous studies have revealed 1,4-Dioxane is often present in conventional personal care products, this new study indicates the toxin is also present in leading “natural” and “organic” brand products, none of which are certified under the USDA National Organic Program. 

Some of the product brands that were found to contain 1,4-Dioxane include:

  • JASON Pure Natural & Organic
  • Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
  • Kiss My Face
  • Nature’s Gate Organics

Both the OCA and Steinman are calling for misleadingly labeled “Organic(s)” brands which include ethoxylate ingredients or otherwise utilize petrochemicals in their ingredients, to drop all organic claims from their branding and labeling. “The practice of ethoxylating ingredients or using other petroleum compounds must end for natural personal care, and is that much more outrageous in so-called ‘organics’ brand products,” says Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of the OCA.

According to Steinman, Consumers should also take heart in the emergence of a growing number of companies who’ve received the message and who are seeking to completely avoid petrochemicals in their cosmetic and personal care products. Your best bet is to purchase products whose ingredients you can pronounce or better yet are certified under the USDA National Organic Program.”

According to the report, the majority of products in the personal care section with “organic” brand claims are not USDA certified, and contain only cheap water extracts of organic herbs and maybe a few other token organic ingredients for organic veneer. The core of such products are composed of conventional synthetic cleansers and conditioning ingredients usually made in part with petrochemicals. According to market statistics, consumers are willing to pay significantly more for products branded “natural” or “organic” which they believe do not contain petrochemical-modified ingredients or toxic contaminants like 1,4-Dioxane.

To avoid 1,4-Dioxane, the OCA urges consumers to search ingredient lists for indications of ethoxylation including: “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol,” in ingredient names. In general, the OCA urges consumers to avoid products with unpronounceable ingredients. “When it comes to misbranding organic personal care products in the US, it’s almost complete anarchy and ‘buyer beware’ unless the product is certified under the USDA National Organic Program,” says Cummins.

OSHA Reissues its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program

The NEP will increase enforcement activities and focus on specific industry groups that have experienced frequent combustible dust incidents.

“Combustible dust fires or explosions can pose significant dangers in the workplace,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “With this new Combustible Dust NEP, the Agency will increase its activities in outreach, training, and cooperative ventures with stakeholders, as well as enhance its enforcement activities.”

The purpose of this NEP is to inspect facilities that create or handle combustible dusts which can cause intense burning or other fire hazards when suspended in air, and can lead to explosions. Combustible dusts are finely ground organic or metal particles, fibers, fines, chips, chunks, flakes, or small mixtures of these materials. Types of dusts include, but are not limited to, metal (aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic, biosolids, organic (sugar, paper, soap, and dried blood), and dusts from certain textiles. Combustible dusts can be found in the agricultural, chemical, textile, forest and furniture products, wastewater treatment, metal processing, paper products, pharmaceutical, and recycling operations (metal, paper and plastic) industries.

As a result of a recent catastrophic accident involving combustible dust at a sugar refinery plant in the Savannah, Ga. area, OSHA is intensifying its enforcement activities at facilities where combustible dust hazards are known to exist. Under this revised NEP, each Area OSHA Office is expected to inspect at least four facilities each fiscal year. Under the previous NEP, each Area Office was expected to conduct at least one inspection.

MSHA Reduces Asbestos Permissible Exposure Limit to 1/20th of Previous Level

 Exposure to asbestos has been associated with lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers, as well as asbestosis and other nonmalignant respiratory diseases.

“This final rule will help improve health protection for miners who work in an environment where asbestos is present,” said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Furthermore, it will help lower the risk of material impairment of health or functional capacity over a miner’s working lifetime.”

Requirements of the Asbestos Exposure Limit rule:

  • The final rule retains MSHA’s existing definition of asbestos, which is the same as that of the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • The final rule lowers MSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for asbestos 95 percent, from two fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc) to 0.1 f/cc, which is the same as OSHA’s; and lowers the excursion limit for brief exposures to higher levels from 10 f/cc (for 15 minutes) to one f/cc (for 30 minutes), which is the same as OSHA’s. These lower PELs will significantly reduce the risk to miners.
  • The final rule retains MSHA’s existing method for analyzing asbestos samples (phase-contrast microscopy or PCM) and the existing counting criteria (particles 5 micrometers or longer with a length to diameter ratio of at least 3 to 1), which are the same as OSHA’s.
  • By policy, MSHA will continue to use transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to confirm samples that exceed the PEL (0.1 f/cc).

MSHA published the proposed rule for asbestos exposure limit in July 2005 and held two public hearings in October 2005 in Denver, Colo., and Arlington, Va.

There are no operating asbestos mines in the United States, and a few operating mines currently have asbestos in the ore. MSHA sampling data show that only five metal and nonmetal mines—2% of the 207 mines sampled since 2000—have had an asbestos exposure over the final rule’s limit.

OSHA Chief Testifies on Efforts to Protect Workers from Combustible Dust and Announces OSHA Initiatives

Edwin G. Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of occupational safety and health, recently testified on Capitol Hill to discuss OSHA’s efforts to protect workers from combustible dust hazards and investigate the cause of the Feb. 7 explosion at Imperial Sugar Refinery in Savannah, Ga.

“OSHA is intensifying its ongoing enforcement, education and outreach programs to ensure that employers and workers are doing everything they are supposed to be doing to protect against combustible dust,” Foulke told the House Education and Labor Committee.

Foulke also announced several initiatives that OSHA has undertaken to improve its enforcement and outreach. The fact sheet provides a descriptive overview of combustible dust hazards and offers suggestions for eliminating these hazards.

Foulke has issued a memorandum to OSHA’s state plan administrators urging state-run occupational safety and health agencies to join OSHA in its focus on combustible dust hazards. He has ordered OSHA to refine and expand the combustible dust National Emphasis Program that was announced in October 2007 to focus on facilities most likely to experience catastrophic dust explosions. Foulke also stated that the agency’s Harwood training grant program will include combustible dust as a training topic for grant solicitations for fiscal year 2009.

Additionally, on March 10, OSHA provided a two-hour refresher training on the subject to 700 compliance officers. Foulke also has ordered his staff to prepare guidance for stakeholders to improve hazard communication related to combustible dust.

OSHA Cites CBS Outdoor Inc. for Lack of Fall Protection

A nationwide outdoor advertising company with a history of fall protection violations faces a combined total of $54,500 in fines from OSHA for similar hazards in Massachusetts and Georgia. The company has been previously cited for similar hazards at New Jersey and Missouri sites as well.

CBS Outdoor Inc. was cited for alleged repeat and serious violations of OSHA safety standards after inspectors observed CBS employees working without fall protection on billboards in Avondale Estates, Ga., and Braintree, Mass., in November 2007. OSHA found that the employees were exposed to potentially fatal falls of up to 22 feet.

“While the employees had fall protection equipment with them, it was either unused or used incorrectly, thereby leaving these employees one misstep away from death or disabling injuries,” said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office. “While it’s fortunate that no falls have yet occurred, safety cannot—and must never be—simply a matter of luck.”

“The same hazard recurring in multiple locations points to a systemic problem with the company’s safety program that must be addressed before employees are hurt or killed,” said Brenda Gordon, director of OSHA’s Braintree Area Office. “CBS Outdoor must consistently and effectively monitor its jobsites to ensure that proper fall protection safeguards are in place and in use at all times.”

The company was issued a repeat citation with a proposed fine of $25,000 for allowing employees to be exposed to fall hazards at the Massachusetts location. Another repeat fall protection citation, with a $25,000 proposed penalty, plus two serious citations, with $4,500 in proposed penalties, for ladder and electrical hazards were issued for the Georgia jobsite.

OSHA cited CBS Outdoor for fall protection hazards in 2006 and 2007 at worksites in Blue Springs, Mo., Hackensack, N.J., and Stone Mountain, Ga.

Repeat citations are issued when an employer previously has been cited for substantially similar hazards and those citations have become final. OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition which exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result.

OSHA Calls on Tree Care Industry to Review Hazards and Safeguards Following the Death of a Tree Trimmer

The electrocution death of a tree trimmer in East Haddam, Conn., in October 2007 has prompted OSHA to urge employers and employees in Connecticut’s tree care industry to reacquaint themselves about the hazards associated with their work and the protective measures they can take to address those hazards. The company is facing a total of $37,000 in proposed fines.

“Tree care employees are exposed to the dangers of falls, lacerations, being struck by vehicles and, in this case, electrocution resulting from contact with a power line,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport, Conn., whose office investigated the accident. “Now would be an appropriate time for employers and employees to focus on recognizing, identifying and addressing these hazards. That knowledge could save their lives and prevent another death.”

OSHA has an ongoing alliance with the Connecticut Tree Protective Association to exchange information and facilitate training for the association’s member companies. 

On Oct. 22, 2007, an employee of ABC Professional Tree Services Inc. of Houston, Tex., was electrocuted when an aerial lift contacted an energized overhead power line while employees were trimming trees in East Haddam. OSHA’s inspection found that the boom was operating within two feet of the power line. OSHA standards require a minimum clearance of 10 feet.

As a result, OSHA issued ABC one repeat citation for not maintaining a safe distance from the power line and one serious citation for not conducting a workplace hazard assessment. The repeat citation stemmed from ABC’s having been cited in March 2005 for a similar hazard at a Ponchatoula, La., worksite. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Survey Shows Americans Lack Critical Facts about Maintaining Eye Health

 This survey was sponsored by the National Eye Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

71% of respondents reported that a loss of their eyesight would rate as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, meaning that it would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day life. However, only 8% knew that there are no early warning signs of glaucoma, a condition that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness.

51% said that they have heard that people with diabetes are at increased risk of developing eye disease, but only 11% knew that there are usually no early warning signs. Only 16% had ever heard the term “low vision,” which affects millions of Americans. Low vision is vision loss that standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery cannot correct, making everyday tasks difficult to do. Simple tasks like reading the mail, watching TV, shopping, cooking, and writing become challenging.

More than 3,000 adults were selected randomly to participate in this national telephone survey conducted between October 2005 and January 2006. The findings reinforce the critical need to educate the public about common eye diseases, such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration.

“Good eyesight is important to our quality of life and it is essential for adults to have accurate information to help them make informed decisions about their eye health needs,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the National Institutes of Health. “These survey results will help us identify specific ways in which we can close the gap in knowledge about eye diseases and address the disparities that exist.”

NEI plans to use the survey results to develop ways to raise public awareness of eye disease and the importance of early detection and treatment. In addition, NEI will increase its efforts to educate health care providers on how to communicate with patients about ways to preserve and protect their vision. “The survey shows us that nearly one quarter of Americans have not seen or heard anything about eye health or disease, and yet more than 90% have seen a health care provider,” Sieving said. “We need to educate these doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals with the tools they need to educate their patients on how to better maintain their eye health.”

NEI coordinates the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) in partnership with a variety of public and private organizations that conduct eye health education programs. The focus of NEHEP is on public and professional education programs that encourage early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease and the appropriate treatment for low vision.

Artificial Butter Chemical Harmful to Lungs

Scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conducted the study because diacetyl has been implicated in causing obliterative bronchiolitis (OB) in humans. OB is a debilitating but rare lung disease, which has been detected recently in workers who inhale significant concentrations of the flavoring in microwave popcorn packaging plants.

When laboratory mice inhaled diacetyl vapors for three months, they developed lymphocytic bronchiolitis, a potential precursor of OB. None of the mice, however, were diagnosed with OB.

“This is one of the first studies to evaluate the respiratory toxicity of diacetyl at levels relevant to human health. Mice were exposed to diacetyl at concentrations and durations comparable to what may be inhaled at some microwave popcorn packaging plants,” said Daniel L. Morgan, Ph.D., head of the Respiratory Toxicology Group at the NIEHS and co-author on the paper that appears online in the journal, Toxicological Sciences. The study was done in collaboration with Duke University researchers.

The authors conclude that these findings suggest that workplace exposure to diacetyl contributes to the development of OB in humans, but more research is needed.

The National Toxicology Program, headquartered at the NIEHS, plans to do a larger set of studies to provide inhalation toxicity data on artificial butter flavoring and the two major components, diacetyl and another compound called acetoin. The NTP studies will help pinpoint more definitively the toxic components of artificial butter flavoring and potentially help identify biomarkers for early detection. The NTP data will then be shared with public health and regulatory agencies so they can set safe exposure levels for these compounds and develop guidance to protect the health of workers in occupations where these chemicals are used.

Entergy Operations in Denham Springs, La., Achieves OSHA Recognition for Safety and Health Excellence

OSHA has welcomed the Entergy Operations Denham Springs Service Center in Denham Springs, La., into the prestigious VPP at the “star” level.

Bruce Stark and Will Hebert from OSHA’s area office in Baton Rouge, La., attended the recognition ceremony, which was held in Baton Rouge.

“Entergy Operations Denham Springs Service Center has demonstrated excellence in effective safety and health management,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Dean W. McDaniel in Dallas. “The center’s outstanding efforts include maintaining an injury and illness rate that is 27% below the national average for its industry.”

The Entergy Denham Springs Service Center operates and maintains power lines that provide electricity to both residential and commercial customers in Livingston Parish, including the cities of Denham Springs and Walker. The company employs about 18 people in Denham Springs that construct and repair power lines, provide meter service and install street lights in the surrounding area.

Successful Partnership With OSHA Reduced Injuries During a Major New Hampshire Construction Project

A successful safety and health partnership with OSHA significantly reduced injuries among the 21 contractors and 250 employees who worked on the now completed Capitol Commons construction project in Concord, N.H. The project involved the construction of an eight-story building and five-level parking garage.

Cobb Hill/Pro Con Construction JV LLC, construction manager for the project, signed the partnership with OSHA and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ safety consultation program in June 2006. The project was completed in June 2007.

A major partnership goal was to reduce the project’s “Days Away from work, Restricted work or job Transfer injury and illness” (DART) rate, the number of cases where employees lost workdays or were put on restricted duty due to an injury or illness, by at least 5% below a baseline rate of 8.02 cases per 100 employees. The project’s final DART rate was 3.73, more than 50% below the project baseline and a rate of decrease almost 10 times more than projected.

“The reduction far exceeded our projections, and the final results are encouraging,” said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA’s area director in Concord. “Nineteen contractors had no recordable injuries and illnesses during the life of the project, while eight contractors reduced their pre-project DART rates from over 10.0 to zero.”

Ohar attributed these results to the partnership’s stringent requirements and its emphasis on training, self-inspections, and proactively identifying and correcting hazards. Specifically, subcontractors had to document their safe work procedures and use them during the project; managers and safety personnel conducted daily site inspections; a system to identify and track hazards through their correction was developed and followed; and OSHA, the New Hampshire consultation service and others provided training, toolbox talks and guidance to contractors and employees as needed or requested.

“This partnership shows that a uniform, continuous commitment to prioritizing safety and health can result in a safer workplace, but the most important benefits may be in the future,” said Ohar. “We’re particularly encouraged that contractors have told us they intend to carry the knowledge and practices learned during Capitol Commons to future jobs.”

OSHA Joins with Contractors and Labor to Protect Employees of New Caithness Long Island Energy Center Project

OSHA has joined with Siemens Power Generation, F&S Power, Bana Electric, labor unions and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties in a safety partnership to better protect employees constructing the new Caithness Long Island Energy Center in Yaphank, N.Y., on Long Island.

“This partnership will take a proactive approach to employee safety and health,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting regional administrator in New York. “The emphasis will be on ensuring that all employees on this project are equipped with the knowledge and skills to aggressively identify and eliminate potential hazards before they harm workers. The partnership also will foster a cooperative working relationship among management, craft employees and OSHA.”

Key components of the partnership include a project health and safety management system; job hazard analyses; site-specific training for employees on hazards and safety regulations associated with their jobs; OSHA 10-hour safety courses for all employees; root cause investigations of accidents, injuries or near-miss incidents; and effective comprehensive safety and health programs for all contractors.

“We want all employees and contractors working on this project to have a heightened and informed awareness of safety and health issues,” said Patricia Jones, OSHA’s area director for Long Island. “This knowledge is critical to achieving our common goals of zero fatalities, reduced injury and illness rates, and minimized work-related hazards.”

OSHA’s Strategic Partnership Program is part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of employees through cooperative relationships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers and employees. More than 1.3 million employees and more than 22,000 employers across the United States have participated with OSHA in more than 500 strategic partnerships since the program began in 1998.

OSHA Forms Alliance With Honda of America’s Marysville, Ohio, Plants

OSHA and Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. have formed a safety and health alliance, committing to work together to provide a safe working environment for employees, and reduce injuries and illnesses at the company’s manufacturing plants in Ohio.

“This agreement provides an opportunity for OSHA and Honda of America Manufacturing to come together and demonstrate that we all benefit when management, labor and government dedicate themselves to providing a safe and healthful work environment,” said Debora Zubaty, OSHA’s area director in Columbus, Ohio. “We want every employee to go home healthy and uninjured at the end of the day.”

OSHA and Honda of America Manufacturing will work to continually improve the company’s safety and health environment, particularly in reducing and preventing catastrophic and serious injuries. The alliance also will have a special focus on ergonomic hazards, which are a significant source of lost time and restricted duty injuries in the automotive industry.

Honda of America’s Marysville facility has approximately 13,000 employees at four manufacturing locations. The plants are capable of producing most types of Honda vehicles, including automobiles, trucks and motorcycles.

OSHA safety and health alliances are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the safety and health of employees through cooperative partnerships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers and government agencies. OSHA currently has more than 460 alliances throughout the nation with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.

OSHA Announces Alliance With Operation Excel/Youth Build in St. Louis

OSHA and Operation Excel/Youth Build (OEYB) in St. Louis have formed an alliance to provide information, guidance and training resources to youth enrolled in OEYB’s construction training programs. The alliance will focus on enhancing the value of construction safety education and training, a goal central to both OSHA’s and OEYB’s missions.

“This alliance illustrates a mutual commitment to safety and health hazard prevention,” said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “Both OSHA and OEYB believe in instilling an early safety culture in our nation’s youth, as well as promoting best practices and technical knowledge for the construction industry. We will cooperate in creating new ideas and opportunities to assist youth curriculum developers and future employers in preventing workplace injuries.”

William McDonald, director of OSHA’s St. Louis Area Office, represented the agency at Tuesday’s signing ceremony in St. Louis, along with Julia Tibbs, director of grants for OEYB.

OSHA’s area office in St. Louis and OEYB will collaborate on training and education programs for accident and injury prevention for students and other beneficiaries. The alliance partners will participate in conferences, forums, stakeholder meetings and other events.

OSHA Recognizes Gordon Evans Energy Center for Achieving VPP Status

Gordon Evans Energy Center in Colwich, Kan., has earned membership at the “star,” or highest, level of OSHA’s prestigious Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). A recognition ceremony was held on March 14 at the facility, which produces electricity and employs 42 people.

“The Gordon Evans Energy Center has demonstrated excellence in its comprehensive safety and health management,” said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City. “The company’s outstanding efforts have included management commitment to safety and health, and employee involvement in safety and health programs.”

OSHA’s VPP recognizes and promotes effective workplace safety and health management. Companies in the VPP achieve average injury rates 50% lower than other companies in their respective industries. The Gordon Evans Energy Center is joining more than 1,920 worksites representing more than 270 industries nationwide that have earned entry into the program.

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