Cancer-Causing Contaminant Soils Cleaning Products
Seventh Generation, Method and other leading personal care and cleaning brands may soon face lawsuits if they don't remove the word "organic" from their labeling and marketing by Sept. 1. The ultimatum comes following a recent investigation by the Organic Consumers Assn., which uncovered a potentially carcinogenic contaminant in various products.
The OCA investigated nearly 100 organic cosmetic, personal care and household cleaning formulas, and found that nearly 50% of them contain detectable levels of 1,4-dioxane, which is known to cause cancer in lab animals. None of the manufacturers disclosed this information on their labels, even though many had levels greater than 1,000 times the acceptable level.
The biggest offenders were the "natural" dish detergents, including Citrus Magic 100% Natural Dish Liquid, Earth Friendly Products Ultra Dishmate, Method Dish Naturally Derived Ultra Concentrate, Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid and Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid.
Method, San Francisco, refuted the study saying it never made the claim on labels that its products are natural or organic. "We state that our products are naturally-derived," said rep Katie Molinari.
The findings were released by the OCA, which is based in Washington, on Friday in Anaheim, Calif., at the Natural Products Expo West trade show.
David Steinman, a consumer advocate and author who directed the study, called the findings a wake-up call for the natural products industry: "To knowingly and unnecessarily put carcinogens into commerce in these modern times is cynical and barbaric. It betrays the public trust."
The brands will have to remove all "organic" branding and labeling from their packaging by Sept. 1. Manufacturers have until April 20 to agree to the terms, said Adam Eidinger, principal with Mintwood Media, Washington, a consulting firm that works with the OCA.
"If [manufacturers] do not comply, they will face a lawsuit accusing them of false and deceptive advertising and unfair and unlawful business practice under California law," Eidinger said. "No one is regulating natural claims and these carcinogens have cumulative effects on humans and the environment. Something needs to be done to create higher standards for these products."
The lawsuit will be filed on behalf of the national OCA, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Escondido, Calif., and the regional Organic Consumers Assn. chapter in Little Marais, Minn.
While 1,4-dioxane is present in many conventional personal care products such as shampoos and body washes, as well as household cleaning products, the issue at hand has to do with mislabeling products that consumers deem organic and natural, which implies they are free of chemicals and harmful ingredients.
The OCA study also revealed that all products certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program were free of 1,4-dioxane. In order to receive the seal, 95% or more of the ingredients have to be organic. Brands found not to contain 1,4-dioxane include Burt's Bees, Clorox Green Works, Avalon Organics and Dr. Bronner's.