Procter & Gamble, makers of Tide and Tide Free & Gentle detergents, has agreed to reduce the levels of the chemical 1,4 dioxane in its laundry products.
The consumer product giant settled a lawsuit filed by the Oakland-based citizen enforcement group As You Sow on Jan. 22, pledging to promptly reduce levels of 1,4 dioxane in its detergents. The consent judgment was entered by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Marla J. Miller, resolving As You Sow’s claims against Procter & Gamble.
Proctor & Gamble agreed to pay a total of $55,000 to settle the case, of which $45,000 is designated for attorneys’ fees, $3,000 for civil penalties, with an additional $7,000 to be paid in lieu of civil penalties.
The company agreed to reformulate its detergents to reduce levels of 1,4 dioxane to below 25 parts per million (ppm).
Procter & Gamble will complete the reformulation process by this September, and will likely distribute the new reformulated products nationwide.
The chemical, 1,4 dioxane is a solvent stabilizer listed as a carcinogen in California under Proposition 65. The U.S. EPA classifies the chemical a “probable carcinogen.”
1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of ethoxylation, the process of adding ethylene oxide – a known carcinogen – to petroleum-based chemicals in order to make them less harsh.
Women’s Voices for the Earth, the women’s environmental health advocacy group that has been calling on Procter & Gamble to remove 1,4-dioxane from its products, claimed a public health victory.
“We’re glad that P&G is finally taking responsibility for this toxic contamination in their products,” said Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research with Women’s Voices for the Earth.
“It’s obvious that it is possible for companies to manufacture products without 1,4 dioxane. We believe all companies should do the same to protect public health.”
In November of 2011, Women’s Voices for the Earth published the report “Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in your Cleaning Products?” with independent testing results revealing 1,4-dioxane at 89 parts per million in Tide Free & Gentle and 63 ppm in Tide.
The publication of the report caused thousands of consumers to call for the removal of the chemical from the detergents.
“Of course women expect Tide to work well. But they also expect it to do so without putting their family’s health at risk. They called P&G out on that, and the company listened,” said Cassidy Randall, campaign and outreach manager for Women’s Voices for the Earth who led the organization’s campaign against the company.
In the past, Proctor & Gamble has defended its use of the chemical. “1,4 dioxane is pretty common in our environment in general, it’s found in food, drinking water, air, and in a wide range of consumer products,from shampoo and body washes to cleaning products,” Procter & Gamble spokesperson Suzette Middleton told “Forbes” last March.
“It comes in as a trace contaminant or a by-productdeveloped in the process of making these products,” Middleton said. “With theamount that we know is in our laundry products, you would have to wash and wearover 1,000 loads of laundry every day to approach the safety levels set byvarious organizations and regulatory agencies.”
“We’re in full compliance with California law,” Middleton added. “That [Prop 65] law talks about labeling vs. amounts, but even from alabeling perspective we’re under the limits they set.”
Women’s Voices for the Earth was not persuaded by claims that the company was in compliance with Proposition 65, however. In February,2012, the advocacy group started a petition asking Procter & Gamble to remove 1,4 dioxane from Tide detergents. The petition received more than 78,000 signatures.
The case referenced by this article is: AYS v The Proctor and Gamble Manufacturing Co (SFSC Case No. CGC-12-517674).