Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 9, 2014. Cosmetics giant Avon will join several other notable cosmetics and personal care companies in committing to remove the antibacterial pesticide triclosan from their products. This announcement comes months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will require manufacturers of antibacterial soaps and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap. Avon is just the latest company to demonstrate the notable market shift away from triclosan which has been occurring quietly over the past few years due to consumer awareness and government stagnation. Avon’s action marks a trend in which companies using toxic chemicals are forced by consumers to switch to nontoxic ingredients and get out in front of regulators whose actions lags behind the science on adverse health and environmental effects.
Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for a couple years now. Avon joined these companies last week, announcing it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it. Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating. On its website, Avon notes that its decision is “based on the preferences expressed by some of our customers for products without triclosan. We are no longer using triclosan in new product development and have begun replacing it in existing products.” GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpastes, have reformulated their products to also exclude triclosan, according to media reports. Others, including L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples, have also started phasing it out.
“We are not going to use it in new products and the process is underway for identifying alternatives or changing formulations for the small number of existing products that had included triclosan among their ingredients,” Avon spokeswoman, Jennifer Vargas.
Triclosan is currently used in a wide variety of products, including hand soaps, clothing, kitchenware, deodorants, and cosmetics. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed a laundry list of adverse impacts resulting from its use. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It has also been shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human milk. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 40% since 2004. Researchers from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado found that triclosan impairs muscle function in fish and mice and stated that the results they found show “strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure. Last year, a published study revealed that triclosan can alter the composition of bacterial communities in streams and can lead to bacterial resistance. Research also shows that triclosan is entering aquatic environments at elevated rates, as wastewater treatment plants are unable to completely remove the chemical.
In a statement about the Avon announcement, Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and director of program and policy at the nonprofit Breast Cancer Fund, urged the company to quit playing catchup and take a leadership role.
“We have been urging companies and the government, through our campaign and petitions over the last decade, to remove triclosan from products and are glad to see Avon joining other company to take responsible action,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “The story of triclosan represents a deep failure in our regulatory system, which allows toxic products on the market that have no proven benefit, while raising serious health and environmental concerns that clearly should be avoided with precautionary action,” Mr. Feldman continued.
“The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics congratulates Avon for finally giving triclosan the boot,” said Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund.. “It’s a hormonally active chemical that has no business being in cosmetics and personal care products,” she continued.
Groups have been calling on FDA and its counterpart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (which regulates non-cosmetic products with triclosan) to immediately ban triclosan from consumer products, citing endocrine disruption, and other human health concerns. Last December, FDA announced it will now require manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps are safe and effective. The agency is accepting public comments until June 16, 2014. Submit your comment here. However, this announcement comes years late as many manufacturers have already been removing triclosan from their products due to public pressure. There has also been local action around the procurement of triclosan. For instance, Minnesota announced that all state-run agencies would stop purchasing products that contain triclosan.
In many antibacterial soaps, triclosan has been replaced with L-Lactic acid, normally found in the human body and in several foods. This agent is of low toxicity and suppresses the growth of bacteria. Under EPA, L-lactic acid is registered and used as an antimicrobial pesticide, disinfectant, indirect food contact surface sanitizer, and fungicide and virucide on hard, non-porous surfaces. However, Beyond Pesticides has pointed to scientific findings that triclosan in soap products is no more effective than soap and water in managing germs. FDA has categorized L-Lactic acid as generally recognized as safe and is allowed for use as an antimicrobial agent and for other uses in food. In other products, triclosan has been replaced with quaternary ammonium compounds such as benzalkonium chloride. These compounds have a variety of registered uses, are widely used, and are considered more toxic.
Since 2004, Beyond Pesticides worked to bring public attention to the dangers surrounding the proliferate use of triclosan in consumer goods. A petition submitted to both FDA and EPA by Beyond Pesticides in 2010 calls for the ban on triclosan based on the unnecessary health and environmental risks involved with its use, given the availability of safer alternatives. Now that growing public awareness and the evolving market shift away from triclosan, the time is now for a federal ban on this unnecessary chemical.
For more on triclosan, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Antibacterial page.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.