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Erin Silk

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Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation into law Dec. 9 banning the chemical 1,4-dioxane, which is found in cleaning products, personal care products and cosmetics.  

The Environmental Protection Agency considers 1,4-dioxane a likely carcinogen. Yet the dangerous chemical can be found in numerous household products that families use every day. Recent testing done at an independent lab found 1,4-dixoane in over 80 percent of cleaning and personal care products tested, including shampoos, body washes, baby products and detergents. Once used by consumers and washed down the drain, 1,4-dioxane enters local water systems. Elevated levels of 1,4-dioxane have been found across the state, with EPA data showing that Long Island has the highest levels detected in the country.

The Suffolk County and Suffolk County Water Authority have been conducting tests to monitor the situation, and purchased equipment in some cases to remove the chemical. The county continues to characterize the chemical as a major emerging concern to Long Island’s drinking water.

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Cuomo has taken the bold step of saying that we are no longer going to simply chase after 1,4-dioxane after it gets into the environment, we are going to take strong steps to prevent it from getting into the environment in the first place,” said Peter Scully, deputy county executive and water quality czar. “Once again, the governor has made New York a national leader in the battle to ensure a cleaner environment for future generations.”

 Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), has been a strong proponent of the ban and has provided a consumer guide listing products to avoid on the CCE website. 

“In the battle of public need over corporate greed, the public just won,” she said. “Washing our laundry, bathing children and washing dishes should not result in cancer causing chemicals in our drinking water.”

This legislation, she added, is precedent setting and sends a clear message to industries that the public’s need for clean water trumps corporate interests.  

“This was a hard fought battle, with Dow Chemical, American Chemistry Council, Lysol, Proctor and Gamble and others all working against the bill,” she said. “Public support for this legislation was abundant and widespread, with 40,000 signatures on petitions sent to the governor, 10,000 letters from across the state and thousands of phone calls made in the last two weeks asking the governor to sign the bill.” 

Removing 1,4-dixoane from consumer products that are washed down the drain will be essential to meet this new drinking water standard.

“In the absence of federal leadership, and to protect our communities, New York State is currently poised to adopt the nation’s most protective maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane,” said State Department of Health spokesperson Erin Silk. “New York State agencies are also undertaking what is arguably the nation’s most comprehensive investigation of potential sources of contamination by these chemicals. The public comment period for the regulatory process has closed and the department has concluded its review of nearly 5,000 comments for discussion at the next Drinking Water Quality Council meeting.”

New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Center) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) sponsored the bills (S4389B/A6295A) in the Legislature. Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) are co-sponsors.