What is Dioxane?

1,4-Dioxane, also known simply as dioxane, is a clear, colourless liquid with a faint ether like odour. It is highly flammable and readily dissolvable in water.

What is Dioxane used for?

Dioxane is used across the chemical industry, primarily as a solvent in organic products, and as a stabiliser in varnish, paint strippers, chlorinated solvents, dyes and lacquers. Dioxane was commonly used as an epoxy resin solvent in 1950-1960’s but toxicity concerns lead to dioxane being replaced by less hazardous substitutes.

It is also used as a laboratory reagent, and is a trace contaminant of some chemicals used in cosmetics, detergents and shampoos. Today, manufacturers try to reduce dioxane from these chemicals used in the production of consumer products.

Despite its toxicity, dioxane finds its way into many personal care products
Despite its toxicity, dioxane finds its way into many personal care products.

Dioxane Hazards

You can be exposed to dioxane through inhalation, ingestion or skin and eye contact.

Inhalation of dioxane can cause irritation to the nasal and respiratory passages along with symptoms including; gastric distress, drowsiness, vertigo, dyspnea and tenderness in the lumbar and abdominal regions.

Ingestion of dioxane may be damaging to your liver; with large amounts a particular concern. Dioxane has been classified as a Group 2B carcinogen – possibly carcinogenic to humans. In studies conducted on animals, those exposed to dioxane eventually developed cancer. 

Repeated skin exposure through normal handling may result in crackling, flaking or dryness of the skin. Dioxane can be absorbed through the skin and may cause liver, kidney and brain damage. It is important that cuts, abrasions or irritated skin are not exposed to dioxane to avoid the chemicals entry into the bloodstream. 

Eye exposure to dioxane may cause serious eye irritation and possible permanent damage if treatment is not sought promptly. Mild symptoms of dioxane exposure to the eye include redness and temporary vision impairment.

Dioxane has been shown to cause cancer in animal studies.

Dioxane Safety

If dioxane has been inhaled by a person, remove them from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. If they find breathing difficult, loosen tight collars and belts and give them oxygen. If they are not breathing, perform CPR (if you are qualified to do so).

If dioxane is swallowed, seek medical attention immediately and do not induce vomiting. If vomiting occurs however, lean the patient forward or placed on their left side to maintain open airways and avoid aspiration. 

In the event of acetone exposure to skin; remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of water and soap. Contaminated clothing must be washed before wearing again. Seek medical attention

If eye exposure occurs, skilled personnel should remove any contact lenses and flush the eye with running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. 

Dioxane Safety Handling

Adequate ventilation should be available when handling dioxane and local exhaust ventilation should be explosion resistant due to the nature of the chemical. 

Safety showers and emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to dioxane.

The recommended PPE for handling dioxane includes:

  • Safety glasses with side shields
  • Chemical goggles
  • Overalls
  • Vapour respirator
  • PVC gloves
  • PVC apron
  • Safety gumboots

*Some plastic PPE is not recommended as they may produce static electricity

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