1,4-dioxane was mainly used as a stabilizer for chlorinated solvent 1,1,1-trichoroethane. 1,4-dioxane can also be an unintended contaminant in the production of certain products, including some cleaners, detergents, adhesives, inks, and automotive fluids. Drinking contaminated water is the primary way people are exposed to 1,4-dioxane, which is considered a likely human carcinogen.
Groundwater contaminated with 1,4-dioxane is largely caused by historical use and disposal of chlorinated solvents, often used for industrial purposes.
Human health and environmental concerns
Drinking contaminated water is the primary way people are exposed. Minor sources of exposure are food prepared with contaminated water and incidental ingestion and inhalation of water vapor during showering.
Information about the health effects of 1,4-dioxane comes mainly from studies of laboratory animals. 1,4-dioxane is considered a likely human carcinogen, based on studies of animals exposed to very high amounts. There are currently no human studies that show a direct link between exposures to 1,4-dioxane and cancer.
Monitoring, reporting, and regulations
1,4-dioxane does not have an established EPA federal drinking water standard, however, the MDH has established a state drinking water standard of 1 part per billion. 1,4-dioxane has been detected in five Minnesota community water supply wells, and they are actively being monitored by the MDH. Additional consideration is also needed for conducting surveillance monitoring across the state at potential 1,4-dioxane contamination sites to ensure that public health impacts are not occurring from this emerging contaminant.