In recent months, news headlines circulating online claim New York has taken steps to stop the sale of laundry detergents containing a potentially cancer-causing chemical.
Some social media posts, like this one on TikTok, claim the state is limiting the amount of 1,4-dioxane that can be present in these products.
A VERIFY reader also asked if New York has banned the sale of laundry detergents with cancer-causing chemicals.
Is New York limiting levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical found in laundry detergent?
- New York Environmental Conservation Law Articles 35 and 37
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program report
- Procter & Gamble, manufacturer of Tide and Gain laundry detergents
Yes, New York is limiting levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical found in laundry detergent.
WHAT WE FOUND
New York is limiting the amount of a potentially cancer-causing chemical called 1,4-dioxane that can be found in products such as laundry detergents, cosmetics and other personal care items.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conversation (DEC) said 1,4-dioxane is “typically formed as a contaminant during the manufacturing process of products such as detergents and shampoos.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified the chemical as a probable human carcinogen based on animal data. A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program also found that 1,4-dioxane is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals.”
When consumers use products such as detergents and shampoos, they are discharged into residential septic systems where they enter local wastewater treatment systems, the DEC said. The EPA says 1,4-dioxane has been found in groundwater at sites throughout the United States.
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New York’s legislature recently amended two articles of the state Environmental Conservation Law to place limits on the amount of 1,4-dioxane in common household products.
As of Dec. 31, 2022, the law limits the amount of 1,4-dioxane in laundry detergents, other household cleaning products and personal care products to a maximum of 2 parts per million (ppm). The maximum allowable concentration of 1,4-dioxane in these products will decrease to 1 part per million by the end of 2023.
For cosmetics such as makeup and hairspray, the law limits the amount of 1,4-dioxane to 10 ppm as of Dec. 31, 2022.
The law also limits polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals,” in food packaging, and restricts the sale of products for children that contain other toxic chemicals.
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So what does this law mean for the sale of laundry detergents in New York?
Any household cleansing products, including laundry detergents, with 1,4-dioxane concentrations greater than 2 ppm should not be sold or distributed in the state, according to the DEC.
But the law doesn’t ban laundry detergents, as some people online have claimed, since manufacturers can reformulate their products to comply with the 1,4-dioxane limits, a spokesperson for the department said.
The law also allows products that exceed the 1,4-dioxane limit to be sold in the state if they have received a waiver from the DEC. Some laundry detergent products have already received waivers from the state, a DEC spreadsheet shows.
“Waiver applications submitted by manufacturers must offer the steps taken to reduce the presence of 1,4-dioxane in their product, or products and specify why the manufacturer needs more time to achieve compliance,” the DEC spokesperson said.
Some viral posts shared online claim that Tide, Gain and Arm & Hammer laundry detergents aren’t being sold in New York due to the state law. But that’s not the case for Tide and Gain detergents, manufacturer Procter & Gamble told VERIFY.
“All of our Tide and Gain products are safe and compliant with the local laws in their respective markets,” a spokesperson for the company told VERIFY. “We reformulated our products and moved directly to the lower concentration limit of <1 ppm well ahead of the New York statutory deadline.”
The list of approved waivers in the state does show some Procter & Gamble products – but they are body washes, not laundry detergents.
Church & Dwight, the manufacturer of Arm & Hammer laundry detergent, did not respond to an emailed request for comment. None of the company’s products are included on the list of approved waivers.
VERIFY also asked the DEC for a list of laundry detergents that are not being distributed or sold in New York due to the state law, but the department said it does not have one.