Impurity found in baby shampoo not an environmental toxin, Health Canada

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

An impurity found in baby shampoo and other personal care products should not be included in the list of toxic ingredients under the Environmental Protection Act, according to Health Canada.

The substance, 1,4-dioxane, was the centre of a media storm earlier this year when Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) accused a number of big personal care players of allowing dangerously high levels of the substance in their products.

Although not permitted as an ingredient in personal care products, 1,4-dioxane can be found at trace levels in ethoxylated substances that are then used in personal care products.

In August 2008 Health Canada included the substance in the ongoing review of over 200 substances using health and environmental criteria, the results of which are being published in batches.

Just over a year later, the regulatory authority has concluded that it does not need to be included on the list of toxic substances under the Environmental Protection Act.

“It is proposed that 1,4-dioxane is not entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health,”​ Health Canada concluded.

Under Canada’s Environmental Protection Act, a substance should be listed as toxic if it has an immediate or long term harmful effect on the environment and biological diversity, it is a danger to an environment on which life depends or it is a danger in Canada to human life or health.

If a substance is deemed toxic under the act then various risk management strategies are put in place, and it can be proposed for virtual elimination.

CSC campaign ‘shameful’

In response to the campaign from CSC earlier this year, which focused particularly on the presence of 1,4-dioxane in baby products as well as formaldehyde, the US trade body Personal Care Products Council called the allegations a cynical attempt to prey on concerned parents.

PCPC said the allegations were "patently false and a shameful and cynical attempt by an activist group to incite and prey upon parental worries and concerns in order to push a political, legislative and legal agenda".

It argued that CSC had falsely attempted to position the report as ‘scientifically noteworthy’ and new.

“The US FDA and the Cosmetic Ingredients Review (CIR) …have long been aware of the potential presence of 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in personal care products and found them to be safe when present at low levels,​” said Dr John Bailey, chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council back in March.

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