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Chemical Regulation

EU considers plan to tightly regulate 1,4-dioxane

by Cheryl Hogue
March 20, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 10


Drawing shows chemical structure of 1,4-dioxane.
Credit: Shutterstock

The European Union is weighing a proposal to put 1,4-dioxane on the path toward strict regulation. The substance, a common laboratory reagent, is sometimes used to purify pharmaceutical ingredients. It’s also an impurity in consumer and commercial products and a widespread water contaminant that is difficult to remove. The chemical is considered a likely human carcinogen and does not readily break down in the environment. A March 2 proposal from Germany would deem 1,4-dioxane a “substance of very high concern” under the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) law because of the compound’s potential to harm human health and the environment. If the EU finalizes the proposal, 1,4-dioxane would be placed on the EU government’s list of candidates for strict regulation. According to the proposal, companies in the European Economic Area—EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway—make or import more than 1,000 metric tons of 1,4-dioxane per year. That amount does not include any 1,4-dioxane exported from the area or the presence of the substance as an impurity.


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