Bath & Body Works Taking Heat for Triclosan in Soap

A campaign is underway against popular retailer Bath & Body Works over its line of “Summertime Scent” soaps. The soaps are made with the controversial chemical, triclosan, which has been linked to a number of adverse effects and has been classified as a pesticide.

The LA Times quoted Lisa Archer, director of the San Francisco-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics as saying, “A chemical like triclosan that can disrupt hormones and may affect fetal growth and development does not belong in our soap. Studies show that triclosan is no more effective at preventing illness or removing germs than soap and water.”

Triclosan is an antimicrobial that, although originally developed as a surgical scrub, is ubiquitously used in so-called antibacterial soaps, sanitizers and body washes, toothpaste, medical devices, clothing, kitchenware, furniture, toys, and even diaper bags. Companies that market triclosan products claim they are safe; however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered triclosan as a pesticide and has rated it high for human health and environmental risks. In 2005, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that antimicrobial soaps and sanitizers do not reduce the risk of illness and infection in the home.

Scientific studies have linked triclosan to hormone disruption, which could be hazardous to teenagers whose bodies are still developing. Of note, the Bath & Body Works line targets teens, offering products with catchy names such as “Tangelo Orange Twist” and “Sugar Lemon Fizz,” and the slogan “spread love, not germs,” said the LA Times.

Although Bath & Body Works continues with its marketing campaign, other companies, said the Breast Cancer Fund, such as Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, have opted to stop using triclosan in their products or are in the process of phasing the pesticide out of their products, noted the LA Times. Colgate-Palmolive eliminated the chemical from its dishwashing liquids and Softsoap hand soaps; however, triclosan is still used in its Total brand toothpaste, said the LA Times.

“Thanks to the companies that are recognizing it is unwise and unnecessary to expose their customers to triclosan, the market is starting to move away from this hazardous chemical. But we are disappointed that companies like Bath & Body Works continue to sell products containing this toxic chemical, especially those marketed to teenagers,” Archer said, according to the LA Times.

Another critical health concern is triclosan’s link to bacterial resistance, a special problem for vulnerable populations. An endocrine disruptor is also shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones; triclosan potentially increases cancer risks and studies show its adverse effects on fetal growth and development. The pesticide also accumulates in biosolids, is taken up by food crops, and breaks down to different dioxins, exposing consumers to even more dangerous chemicals. As the LA Times pointed out, triclosan is poisonous to aquatic life and has polluted bodies of water.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Center for Environmental Health, just issued an alert to tens of thousands of consumers, demanding that Bath & Body Works eliminate triclosan from their products, said the LA Times. To date, 2,500 signed the Triclosan-Free Pledge and have agreed to ban triclosan-containing products. According to the LA Times, the campaign has prompted over 7,000 people to contact EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging action against triclosan, said the LA Times, which noted that the anti-triclosan coalition includes over 150 nonprofit organizations such as the Clean Water Action, the Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

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