Dioxane is Not the Same as Dioxin

March 2009

Recent reports of trace contamination of 1,4-dioxane in some cosmetics and soap products have occasionally confused this compound with dioxin, which is spelled and pronounced similarly but represents an entirely different substance.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 1,4-dioxane forms as a byproduct during the manufacture of certain cosmetic ingredients. The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports it is also a solvent used to manufacture chemicals and laboratory reagent. Unlike 1,4-dioxane, dioxin is not manufactured commercially. Dioxin is a byproduct of certain industrial, non-industrial and natural processes involving combustion, such as forest fires. 1,4-dioxane (C4H8O2) is one unique chemical compound with distinct toxicological properties, but dioxin is a family of 17 compounds of highly variable toxicity. Structurally,1,4-dioxane consists of six-membered rings of atoms that include four carbon and two oxygen atoms in each ring. Dioxins, on the other hand, consist of two six-membered carbon rings joined together by two oxygen atoms. Chlorine atoms are attached to this structure at any of eight places on the molecule.

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, the largest single source of dioxin to the environment today is the open burning of trash. For more information on dioxins, see the Interagency Working Group Question and Answers about Dioxins. For more information about 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics, see this FDA website.

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