Trying To Be Greener

Safer eco-living, one day at a time

Toxins in my dish detergent?! July 10, 2008

The Organic Consumers Association recently conducted testing on leading “natural” and “organic” shampoos, lotions, and body products. That’s how I found out the Seventh Generation liquid dish detergent I’ve been using contains 1,4-Dioxane, a foaming agent by-product. This chemical is believed to cause damage to the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys. On January 1, 1988, California recognized it as a chemical that can cause cancer.

On the back of Seventh Generation’s liquid detergent, it states, “We use only ingredients that do not pose any chronic health risks and are safe for the environment. We disclose all ingredients.” After the results of the testing were published, SG responded on their blog. They chose to disclose this only after getting caught.

The level of 1,4-Dioxane was low compared to others tested (levels listed in parts per million):

Method Dish Naturally Derived Ultra Concentrate – 27.5
Citrus Magic 100% Natural Dish Liquid – 97.1
Life Tree Citrus Fresh Dish Soap – 0.7
Seventh Generation Lemongrass & Clementine Zest Natural Dish Liquid – 1.5
Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid – 20.3
Ecover Dishwashing Liquid – 2.4
Whole Foods Market 365* Everyday Value Dish Liquid – 1.6

Through a forum member at, I learned about Dapple, a dish detergent that does not contain 1,4-Dioxane. I sent an email to one of the co-founders, Dana Rubenstein, and she confirmed this, adding that it also does not contain Sodium Laureth Ether Sulfate. SLES is an inexpensive by-product used as a foaming agent that mimics the hormone Oestrogen. It may be responsible for a variety of health problems from breast cancer, PMS, and dropping male fertility, where Oestrogen levels are known to be involved.

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2 Responses to “Toxins in my dish detergent?!”

  1. Thanks for posting on my dish soap post over at the Green Baby Guide! (

    I asked you a couple questions about dioxan on that post, but I figure I should ask them here, too. 1. I noticed that many of the soaps you mention containing dioxan do not indicate it on their ingredients list. Is it a biproduct of another ingredient? 2. Do these trace amounts pose health risks? Some of the amounts seem pretty low.

    Oh, also, are these levels in detergent (for dish washers) or the dishwashing liquid used for handwashing dishes? I know they have different ingredients. Detergents usually contain phosphates whereas dishwashing liquid often does not.

  2. Kirstin Says:

    Thanks so much for coming to my site. According to the World Heath Organization, Dioxane is possible carcinogenic for humans because it is a known carcinogen in animals. It is thought to cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. Since it’s used as a foaming agent (an accidental byproduct of the ethoxylation process), you can often find it in many personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, deodorant and toothpastes.

    I did quite a few posts on “How safe is your ________” with many products you can find easily in your local drug stores using The Environmental Working Group’s web site “Skin Deep” ( for the safety of ingredients scale. I did this for toothpaste, deodorant, mascara, baby shampoo/soap, and shampoo and conditioner. Here is a link for the deodorant:

    I haven’t looked into if Dioxane is in dishwashing detergent. I’m really not sure of this but it’s a good question. This should be my next project.I’ll look into it and let you know what I come up with.

    Hope this helps and again, thanks for stopping by!


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