1,4 Dioxane


1,4-Dioxane (also known as dioxane) is a clear, colourless liquid, with a faint ether-like odour. It is highly flammable and easily dissolvable in water. It has been classified as a Group 2B carcinogen: possibly carcinogenic to humans, as studies done on animals who were exposed to the chemical, developed cancer. [1,2]

Uses [1,2,3]

1,4-dioxane is used across chemical industries. It is primarily used as a solvent in organic products, and as a stabiliser in varnish, paint strippers, chlorinated solvents, dyes and lacquers. It is also used as a laboratory reagent, and is a trace contaminant of some chemicals used in shampoos, detergents and cosmetics. Nowadays, manufacturers try to reduce dioxane from these chemicals before they go into products used in the home.

Routes of Exposure [2,4]

Exposure to 1,4-dioxane can occur by breathing contaminated air, drinking contaminated water, or using cosmetics, shampoos or detergents containing 1,4-dioxane.

Exposure can also occur from dermal contact.

Health Effects

1,4-Dioxane poisoning affects a range of systems including the digestive, respiratory and nervous systems.

Acute Effects [2,4]

Severity of symptoms depend on the level and type of exposure.

Low level exposure to 1,4-dioxane can result in eye and nose irritation, headaches, drowsiness, nausea and throat inflammation.

Higher level exposure to the chemical could cause severe liver and kidney effects and possibly death.


Chronic Effects [2]

1,4-Dioxane is toxic to multiple body systems. Long-term exposure to the chemical could result in cancer, however this has not been proven in a human study. Chronic 1,4-dioxane poisoning could result in severe and irreversible kidney and liver effects. Inhalation of 1,4-dioxane can affect the nasal cavity.


~h2First Aid Measures [1]

  • Ingestion: DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. If conscious, give the victim one or two glasses of water to dilute the chemical. Immediately contact a medical professional.
  • Skin contact: Immediately wash affected skin with water for at least 15 minutes. Remove contaminated clothing. Do not re-wear until it has been thoroughly de-contaminated. Continue rinsing contaminated skin with soap and water. Contact a healthcare professional, even if no symptoms develop.
  • Eye contact: Check for and remove contact lenses if easy to do so. Rinse eyes carefully with water or normal saline solution for 20-30 minutes. Take the victim to a medical centre, even if no symptoms, such as redness, develop.
  • Inhaled: Take victim to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. Allow them to rest and immediately contact a medical professional. 
  • General: Never administer anything by mouth to an unconscious, exposed person.

  • Exposure Controls/Personal Protection [5]

  • Engineering controls: Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure. Ensure there is adequate ventilation. Whenever possible, material should be handled in a laboratory.

  • Personal protection: Safety glasses, protective and dustproof clothing, glove, an apron and an appropriate mask. 

Regulation [1]

~h2United States:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an 8-hour Time-Weighted Average (TWA) concentration for 1,4-dioxane of 100ppm.

Australia [3]

Safe Work Australia has set an 8-hour time TWA for 1,4-dioxane of 5ppm.