On the heels of a notice of intent to sue from the Green Patriot Working Group, Procter & Gamble has agreed to reduce the levels of a known cancer-causing agent, 1,4-dioxane, in Herbal Essences hair care. GPWG testing showed that there was almost 150 percent more of the toxin present than is considered safe by California law. (It is completely banned in the European Union.)
Procter & Gamble contends that all of its products are safe and comply with California regulations, but it has nonetheless agreed to create new Herbal Essences formulas. In a letter, the company's legal representation has promised "a companywide reformulation to reduce the concentration of 1,4-dioxane in each of the 18 different Herbal Essences formulae to at or below 10 parts per million, within normal analytical variation." All but one of the new formulas are set to begin production before July.
Before you go rushing to read the ingredient list of your own shampoo bottles, know this: 1,4-dioxane won't appear on it. That's because it's a byproduct of the manufacturing process, and the FDA does not require labels to list such contaminants. Later this year, Herbal Essences will have lower levels of 1,4 dioxane — but otherwise, there's no way to tell if it's present in a product or not.