Could Tide detergent cause cancer?

CINCINNATI - Tide detergent may do more than just clean your clothes -- it may also expose you to a cancer-causing chemical, according to the New York Times.

Tests run by environmental group Women's Voices for the Earth or WVE found small amounts of a cancer-causing chemical called dioxane in Tide Free and Gentle and Tide Original Scent. However, representatives of Cincinnati-based Procter and Gamble, which produces Tide, say the amounts of dioxane are not harmful.

"What's most appalling is that Tide Free & Gentle is marketed to moms as a healthier choice for their children's laundry. Yet infants and children are more vulnerable to chemical exposures because their immune, neurological, and hormone systems are still developing," said a message on the Women's Voices for the Earth website.

A scientist with WVE says they've started an online petition drive requesting P&G reformulate the two products.

"We'd like to see Procter and Gamble take the chemical out. This is something that they've done before with some of their other products. Their Herbal Essences shampoo a couple of years ago that was found to have 1,4 dioxane in it. They figured out how to reformulate and take it out."

While there are no federal limits on what constitutes safe levels of dioxane, the Environmental Protection Agency says that dioxane may cause cancer in lab rats.

A Procter and Gamble toxicologist says the amount of the chemical in Tide is well below the safety risk level.

"We are many, many levels of magnitude below the levels that are considered any level of safety risk," said Tim Long, a toxicologist for the company, in the New York Times article.

This is not P&G's first run-in with dioxane. In 2010, the company changed the formula of its Herbal Essence shampoo line to reduce or eliminate dioxane.

Environmental and health advocacy groups have asked Procter and Gamble to change Tide's formula. Women's Voices for the Earth has started a petition on its website calling for formula change.

To read the full New York Times article, go to

According to the EPA exposure from dioxane is typically occupational but the chemical has also been found in some drinking water and ground water.  The agency reports that health issues developed after long periods of exposure to high concentrations of the chemical.

Procter and Gamble released the following statement Friday afternoon about the safety of its products.

The safety and trust of the people who use our products is the foundation of everything we do. We only market products that have been thoroughly evaluated for safety and meet all regulatory requirements. Trace amounts of the by product in question, 1,4 dioxane, are commonly found in food, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Government agencies around the globe have looked at all the sources of 1,4 dioxane people contact in everyday life and have concluded that there is no risk for consumers. For perspective drinking 2 liters of water that meets world health (WHO) standards would result in 4500 times the amount of 1,4 dioxane from using detergent. A person would have to wash and wear well over 1000 loads of laundry every day to exceed a safe range. As part of what we do every day, we tightly control and monitor our products and continually improve our processes to maintain quality and safety.

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