You probably haven’t heard of the chemical dioxane. But there’s a good chance you’ve been drinking it.
The chemical, 1,4-dioxane, is an industrial solvent used in the production and manufacturing of a whole range of common products, including cosmetics, varnishes, dyes, and detergents.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies the chemical as “likely to be carcinogenic in humans.”
And it’s found its way into water supplies in the United States.
According to a report released last month by the Environmental Working Group, a nonpartisan advocacy group, dioxane was found in tap water samples that affect 90 million Americans in 45 states.
In August, the New York State Department of Health passed legislation requiring all water systems, regardless of size, to begin testing for dioxane.
New York joins a handful of other states, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, that have established dioxane tolerance standards in water.
There’s currently no federal standard for dioxane levels in water.
Regulating water quality
Dioxane is one of many contaminants that the EPA has been monitoring since the mid-1990s. But the agency has yet to regulate it.
The 1996 amendment of the Safe Drinking Water Act introduced the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). It requires the EPA to monitor a list of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants in water.
Based on its findings, the EPA uses data and survey information from the UCMR to make regulatory decisions about potentially harmful contaminants.
So far, dioxane hasn’t been directly linked to any major health events in the United States.
There also hasn’t been any “smoking gun” incident in which a group, community, or water system contaminated with dioxane resulted in people getting seriously ill. Read more