Consumer Pressure Leads Avon To Phase Out Antibacterial Chemical

(202) 939-9141
For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Washington, D.C.  – The decision by Avon, one of the world’s largest beauty product manufacturers, to remove the antibacterial chemical triclosan from its products is “the latest example of how consumer pressure can improve product safety and change the marketplace,” Environmental Working Group said in a statement today.

“This is proof that consumer pressure does work and influences companies to do the right thing,” EWG’s Executive Director Heather White said. “We applaud Avon for putting the concerns of consumers first, and we hope other makers of beauty products will follow its example.”

In a statement released last week, Avon pledged to phase out triclosan, “based on the preferences expressed by some of [their] customers for products without triclosan.” The company said it is no longer using triclosan in new product development and has begun replacing it in existing products. 

Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical most commonly used in hand soaps and body washes to inhibit bacterial growth. It is also found in some brands of toothpaste, clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys.

Triclosan is absorbed through the skin and has been detected in human breast milk, blood and urine samples. In laboratory studies, it has been linked to hormone disruption. The chemical is also persistent in the environment and toxic to aquatic life.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps provide any benefit over washing with regular soap and water, yet many companies continue to add it to their consumer products. The FDA announced a new proposed rule in December of 2013 that would require manufacturers to provide more data about the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps.

“Unfortunately, the FDA has been slow to act on triclosan, forcing consumers to advocate for themselves,” EWG’s White said. “While Avon’s actions are a great first step, we need stronger limits on potentially risky chemicals like triclosan.” 

Last year, Johnson & Johnson announced it would phase out triclosan in its beauty and baby care products by 2015. Proctor and Gamble has pledged to remove triclosan from its products by the end of 2014.

In the meantime, consumers can refer to EWG’s Guide to Triclosan to help reduce their exposure to the substance. One important tip is to avoid hand soaps and body washes labeled “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial.”

Consumers can also use EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and App to find out which products contain triclosan or other potentially hazardous chemicals.