Why is it Nasty?
1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin that is always present in trace amounts when ethoxylated surfactants are used. Ethoxylated surfactants are made by a chemical process called ethoxylation, where ethylene oxide reacts with other chemicals to create a surfactant. The problem with ethoxylation is that it can create the harmful byproduct 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane can also show up in the supply chain through cross-contamination.
How do I find it?
While 1,4-dioxane is never listed on labels because it’s not an intentionally listed ingredient, there are some easy tricks to avoid it. Ethoxylated surfactants usually follow a few naming conventions. If the ingredient ends in “-eth”, such as laureth-6 or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ceteareth or steareth, it’s ethoxylated.