Tide Maker Agrees to Clean Up Controversial Laundry Detergent

The nation's top laundry detergent maker has agreed to make a more family friendly version of its products.  The Procter & Gamble company says it will greatly reduce the level of suspected cancer-causing substance 1,4 dioxane used to make popular Tide products.

This agreement, made in a California court, comes after parents were especially outraged to learn that the Tide Free & Gentle product marketed to families with babies was made with 1,4 dioxane.  The substance in question is a byproduct of the process to make laundry detergent softer with more suds.  More than 78,000 people signed a petition organized by popular blogger Lori Alper of Groovy Green Livin' and member of environmental advocacy group Women's Voices for the Earth, asking Tide to make the change.  Oakland-based nonprofit As You Sow filed a lawsuit against P & G in an effort to encourage corporate responsibility.  A consent judgment shows the company agrees to reduce 1,4 dioxane levels to below 25 parts per million.  WVE testing had detected much higher levels in both Tide and Tide Free & Gentle.

"When we learned that Tide Free & Gentle -- a product marketed to mothers as a healthier choice for their children -- contained high levels of a carcinogen, we knew women would be outraged," said Cassidy Randall, campaign and outreach manager for WVE who led the organization's advocacy campaign.  "Of course women expect Tide to work well.  But they also expect it to do so without putting their family's health at risk.  They called P & G out on that, and the company listened."

1, 4 dioxane has been detected in public drinking water supplies.  The Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as a probable human carcinogen, while the State of California considers it a known carcinogen under its Proposition 65 rule about toxins.  "Proposition 65 requires companies to provide warnings to consumers before exposing them to chemicals that have been found by the state to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm," explained Chief Counsel Danielle Fugere of As You Sow.  "More importantly, Proposition 65 often results in companies such as Tide choosing to reformulate their product to reduce or remove the toxic chemical rather than put a cancer or reproductive harm warning on their product."

Fugere said companies that reformulate a product for California will often sell that updated version of the product throughout the nation.  Fugere added, "When this happens, the whole nation is safer."  Even if the change happens on store shelves nationwide, consumers can expect that will take several months.

Alper discussed her motivation for helping inspire public support for a safer product, "I wanted to show people that we can make a difference when we believe in something, and I'm glad that P & G finally listened to consumers and took action to reduce 1,4-dioxane."