Procter & Gamble faces lawsuit in California
April 13, 2011
SACRAMENTO—Today an alliance of health nonprofits and nurses associations issued a public letter to executives at Procter & Gamble, in an effort to pressure the corporation to reformulate its detergents, which were found to contain actionable levels of 1,4-dioxane under California law. The State of California’s Proposition 65 classifies 1,4-dioxane as a known human carcinogen. The alliance is especially concerned about the presence of the toxic chemical in Tide Free & Gentle®, a detergent heavily marketed to moms as a safer and healthier choice for infants’ and children’s laundry. Young children are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure because their immune, neurological, and hormone systems are still developing.
The findings originated from a series of lab testing done by Analytical Sciences in California, commissioned by the national women’s health nonprofit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE). Under that study, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in your Cleaning Products, WVE found reproductive toxins, carcinogens, hormone disruptors and allergens in 20 different cleaning products.
Procter & Gamble faces a lawsuit in the state of California under its Proposition 65 law, The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, by the As You Sow Foundation. If the plaintiff is successful, P&G would be required to label its products that tested positive for 1,4-dioxane with warnings about the presence of a carcinogen. However, P&G would not have to reformulate their products to remove 1,4-dioxane.
In 2010 P&G reformulated its Herbal Essences® hair products to remove 1,4 dioxane, following a public outcry about the presence of the carcinogen. Tide Free & Gentle® tested at three times the level of 1,4 dioxane than was found in Herbal Essences®, yet the company has stated that it has no intention of reformulating Tide Free & Gentle based on the most recent independent testing.
“People are outraged because they feel deceived. They bought this product because they thought it was a healthier choice. They wouldn’t have purchased it if they knew there was a carcinogen in it. That’s why we need to increase accountability in the cleaning products sector, so that dangerous chemicals aren’t put needlessly in our products,” said Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth.
“More than 76,000 people have already signed onto a Change.org petition and sent emails to P&G asking the company to reformulate Tide Free & Gentle®, yet the company has remained silent in response to this outpouring of customer concern,” said Lori Popkewitz Alper, a mom blogger at Groovy Green Livin’ who started the online petition. “P&G’s action to reformulate Herbal Essences® proved that products can be made without 1,4 dioxane–this disregard for human health is unacceptable.”
“No ‘safe’ level exists for 1,4-dioxane in consumer products— and the range of health hazards extend beyond cancer,” said Dr. Anne Steinemann, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Affairs at the University of Washington, and Visiting Researcher at the University of California San Diego. “Much more work needs to be done to improve the safety of cleaning products, including those claiming to be green or hypo-allergenic.”
“The fact that P&G hasn’t yet taken this chemical out of one of their most trusted brands is appalling,” said Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, executive director of Healthy Child, Healthy World, which has been co-organizing an online advocacy effort for this cause. “A lot of people are saying that they used to trust Tide, but will now stop buying their products, because of this discovery. If Tide wants to keep its customer base, it needs to listen to the thousands of people who have urged them to take out 1,4-dioxane.”
“As nurses, we care for our patients and their families and watch the devastation that a diagnosis of cancer can have on them. We recognize that what causes cancer is complicated,” said Barbara Sattler of the Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment, a co-signer of the letter to P&G. Why would we want a laundry soap that contains a known carcinogen? Proctor and Gamble needs to find a safer alternative to 1,4 dioxane for Tide Free and Gentle.”
Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices and government policies. www.womensvoices.org
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