In a never-ending list of chemical pollutants, a compound that is gaining a lot of attention is 1,4-dioxane. In fact, New Jersey just became the first state to set regulations on the quantity of 1,4-dioxane that can be present in drinking water.
1,4-dioxane, commonly called dioxane (the other two isomers – 1,2-dioxane and 1,3-dioxane are rarely ever seen), is an ether with the molecular formula of C4H8O2. Dioxane was previously used as a polar aprotic solvent. For those who remember their organic chemistry from college, SN2 reactions involve the use of polar aprotic solvents. Since its original use in laboratories, dioxane has been determined to be carcinogenic and, unlike many organic pollutants, it is completely soluble in water. Dioxane’s use as a solvent for industrial purposes has been mostly replaced with tetrahydrofuran, which has a higher boiling point and a lower toxicity. However, the story does not end there!