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Source: North Fork Patch

Environmentalists Warn of New, Emerging Carcinogen Found in Personal Care Products

Environmentalists asked state to set a new safe water drinking standard; the chemical is found in lotions, shampoos, makeup, they say.


Posted: November 17, 2016
Originally Published: November 14, 2016

Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Suffolk County Legis. Kara Hahn took a stand against what they deem a dangerous new, emerging carcinogen they say is found in body lotion, baby wipes, and other personal care products.

The group held a press conference Monday, calling on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "to establish a safe drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane, an emerging contaminant used in many personal care products," according to a release from Adrienne Esposito, executive director of CCE.

According to Esposito, who also spoke at a meeting on Saturday organized by the East Marion Community Association, 1,4-dioxane has been detected at levels exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s health reference guideline for cancer risk, set at .35 micrograms per liter, in 72 percent of Long Island public water systems tested for the contaminant.

Of the 4,400 water supply systems tested by the EPA nationwide, the highest levels of the contaminant were found on Long Island, she said.

CCE submitted a letter to Cuomo and met with his staff to urge both action and the creation of "a safe drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane, which would not only protect our sole-source aquifer and public health on Long Island, but also serve as a guideline for the nation in addressing this harmful emerging contaminant," CCE said in a release.

On Monday, the Suffolk County Legislature will submit the letter to the governor, and CCE joined Hahn, Chair of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Environment Committee, and other members of the Legislature at a press conference calling for a state-wide drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane; the event was held at the William H. Rogers Building in Smithtown.

"On behalf of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) and our 80,000 members throughout New York State, I am writing to respectfully urge you to take action to establish a state drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane that is protective of public health," the letter from Esposito to Cuomo read. "1,4-dioxane is a among the unregulated contaminants identified in EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, and recent studies have confirmed the presence of this emerging contaminant in our drinking water and its potential adverse health impacts."

1,4-dioxane, Esposito's letter continued, "was historically used as an industrial solvent stabilizer, but today it can be found in up to 46 percent of personal care products, including detergents, dishwashing soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, deodorants, and body lotions. The chemical is also used in the production of varnishes, paints, and inks. It has also been found in food via packaging materials or pesticide residues."

The 1,4-dioxane is even found in baby lotions, she said Saturday.

According to the CCE, the chemical is an unwanted byproduct of an ingredient processing method called ethoxylation, which is used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients.

"Though 1,4-dioxane can easily be removed from products before they are sold, its widespread presence indicates that many manufacturers fail to take this simple step," the letter said.

The CCE said that 1,4-dioxane cannot be removed via conventional sewage treatment technologies, septic systems, or normal VOC removal technologies, "making it a critical problem impacting our water resources. 1,4-dioxane is particularly problematic on Long Island."

In a national study conducted in June of last year, 33 of the 36 public water systems studied on Long Island detected 1,4- dioxane, according to Esposito.

"In addition, 72 percent of the Long Island systems exceeded the EPA health reference guideline for cancer risk, set at .35 microgams per liter, for the contaminant. Out of the 4,400 water supply systems across the nation that were evaluated in this study, the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane were found on Long Island," she said.

The Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, released in March of 2015, identified 1,4-dioxane as an emerging contaminant that is not removed with conventional treatment technologies, the CCE said.

The chemical, the CCE said, has been found in more than 40 percent of the Suffolk County Water Authority’s public supply wells. In Nassau County, 1,4-dioxane is found in many of the pollution plumes, the CCE said.

Health risks

1,4-Dioxane poses a significant risk to public health, the CCE said.

"The US EPA considers 1,4-dioxane to be a probable human carcinogen. Additional studies have shown that long-term exposure, even at very low concentrations, may lead to dermatitis, eczema, drying and cracking of skin, and liver and kidney damage. Once in the water supply, exposure may occur through ingestion of contaminated water, inhalation of vapors during bathing or cooking, or skin contact during bathing. 1,4-dioxane is readily absorbed through the lungs and gastrointestinal tract and its distribution in the body is rapid and uniform in the lung, liver, kidney, spleen, colon, and skeletal muscle tissue. (ATSDR, 2012)."

"The EPA does not currently have a federal drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane," said Mary Mears, public affairs director, U.S. EPA Region 2. "It is an emerging contaminant, and information about 1,4-dioxane was collected as part of the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which EPA uses to collect data for contaminants that are suspected to be present in drinking water and do not have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act."

The UCMR, she said, provides EPA and others with scientifically valid data on the occurrence of these contaminants in drinking water.

"This permits assessment of the population being exposed and the levels of exposure. This data set is one of the primary sources of occurrence and exposure information the agency uses to develop regulatory decisions for emerging contaminants," she said. "Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA is allowed to require water supplies to test for a maximum of 30 new contaminants every five years."

For a list of the contaminants for the last round of required UCMR sampling, which includes 1,4-dioxane, click here.

"States can set their own standards, as long as they also meet all of the federally-set standards. Again, in this case there is not a federal drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane," said Mears.