Last week, state Sen. Todd Kaminsky filed legislation requiring the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health to study and regulate 1,4-dioxane, a chemical likely to be carcinogenic, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Last year, the EPA released a report, citing dioxane was found in many water supply systems on Long Island.
Neither the EPA nor the state currently regulates the chemical, nor are there any standards for what is considered a safe level, outside of the EPA’s general reference for any cancer-risk chemical, which is .35 micrograms per liter.
“I want the state to say how much dioxane should be in the water,” said Kaminsky. “It should come up with a limit with the water authorities. New York cannot wait for the federal government to make a law because it hasn’t done it yet. We need to be proactive.”
In early January, Newsday and News 12 reported their own story on the EPA’s report, citing dioxane was detected at or above .35 micrograms per liter in the water provided by numerous south shore water suppliers in Nassau County, including New York American Water, and the water districts in Levittown, Franklin Square, East Meadow, Hempstead and West Hempstead, and throughout Long Island. However, multiple tests were done from 2013-14 — a total of 28,092 tests — showing that the chemical was often below the .35 micrograms per liter guideline.
According to the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, it is difficult to prevent dioxane from reaching Long Island’s groundwater because its sewage and septic systems are not designed to filter out the contaminant. “Now that we know we have it, how do we get rid of it?” said Adrienne Esposito, president of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent last year, Esposito stated that the chemical is an unwanted byproduct of processing method called ethoxylation, which is used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients. “About 46 percent of personal care products contain dioxane,” Esposito said. “It’s in detergents, dishwashing soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, deodorants and body lotions.” Even baby wipes and baby shampoos contain the chemical, which is a stabilizer for manufacturing solvents.
Of the 4,400 water supply systems tested by the EPA nationwide from 2013-14, Long Island’s water systems were among those with the highest levels of dioxane detection in the country. The Citizens Campaign for the Environment wants the state government to enforce a law where dioxane cannot exceed the EPA’s cancer risk guideline for any chemical. The organization said it will release an extensive report containing the EPA’s test results next month.