Could Tide detergent cause cancer?

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 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 .

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 http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/mothers-challenge-trace-ingredient-in-detergent/ .

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.

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