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Triclosan: Is Bath & Body Works' new soap harmful to teens?

July 18, 2011 |  7:27 pm

Soap
Health and environmental groups have mounted a campaign against Bath & Body Works, urging the retailer to stop selling its line of “Summertime Scent” soaps that contain triclosan, a chemical categorized as a pesticide.

Scientific studies have linked triclosan to hormone disruption, which could be hazardous to teenagers whose bodies are still developing.

"A chemical like triclosan that can disrupt hormones and may affect fetal growth and development does not belong in our soap," said Lisa Archer, director of the San Francisco-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund. "Studies show that triclosan is no more effective at preventing illness or removing germs than soap and water."

The line, which includes products with names like "Tangelo Orange Twist" and "Sugar Lemon Fizz," is marketed to teenagers using the slogan "spread love, not germs."

According to the Breast Cancer Fund, major companies, including Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, are either no longer using the chemical or are phasing it out of products. Colgate-Palmolive has eliminated triclosan from its dishwashing liquids and Softsoap hand soaps, but continues to use the chemical in Total brand toothpaste.

"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.

Despite its widespread use as a germ-killer in consumer products, the Food and Drug Administration says that triclosan is no more effective than soap and water at preventing illness or eliminating germs. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides, is updating its 2008 assessment of triclosan based on new science showing thyroid and estrogen effects.

Triclosan has been linked to the emergence of bacteria-resistant antibiotics. The chemical, which is poisonous to aquatic life, has also polluted lakes and rivers.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, along with the Center for Environmental Health, sent an alert last week to tens of thousands of supporters, demanding that Bath & Body Works eliminate triclosan from their products. 

Some 2,500 consumers have signed the campaign’s Triclosan-Free Pledge, agreeing not to buy products containing the chemical. The campaign said more than 7,000 have people sent messages to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging the agency to take action to protect people from triclosan exposure. 

The anti-triclosan coalition includes more than 150 nonprofit organizations, including 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.

Bath & Body Works did not respond to inquiries.

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Photo: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

 

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