Another ‘Forever Chemical’ Called 1,4 Dioxane Found in Ann Arbor

Popular in the second half of the 20th century, 1,4-dioxane was used in pharmaceutical ingredients, filters, metal degreasers, and more. In toxicity studies, laboratory rodents given the chemical in their drinking water developed liver cancer. The United States National Toxicology Program classifies 1,4,-dioxane as a human carcinogen. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also deemed the synthetic chemical a likely carcinogen.

In the United States, production of 1,4-dioxane has diminished, though certain companies import it from Germany to supply customers. Even as the use of 1,4 dioxane declines, the chemical is not disappearing. Water monitoring data collected from 2010 to 2015 shows that more than seven million people in the United States in 27 different states had utility-supplied tap water with detectible levels of 1,4-dioxane according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

There is currently no federal limit on 1,4 dioxane in drinking water, and removing it is challenging. When released into the air, the chemical poses a cancer risk. However, it doesn’t float through the air often or evaporate easily. It dissolves completely in water, even at high concentrations, making it difficult to remove.

Traditional groundwater treatments filter water through granulated activated carbon to remove chlorine and other contaminants. This technology is not applicable to 1,4-dioxane. Many communities have water tainted with worrisome levels of 1,4-dioxane. After leaking out of landfills or as a result of unregulated industrial practices, 1,4-dioxane may infiltrate public aquifers.

In Ann Arbor, between 1966 and 1986, 1,4-dioxane was filtered into groundwater through lagoons that held wastewater from the manufacture of medical and industrial filtration equipment at Gelman Sciences, which has since closed. There is currently litigation regarding the underground plume of 1,4-dioxane headed for the Huron River, Ann Arbor’s main source of drinking water.

Cleaning products, laundry detergents, and shampoos still contain 1,4-dioxane as an unintentional impurity from surfactants, typically rinsed down the drain.

To learn more about the chemicals that might be in your water or gain solutions to these issues, contact the water experts at Reynolds Water today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: