[Pharmwaste] Avon plans to remove triclosan from products,
but what will replace it?
DeBiasi, Deborah (DEQ)
Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Thu Apr 10 14:23:16 EDT 2014
Avon plans to remove triclosan from products, but what will replace it?
Cosmetics brand says it will phase out chemical linked to hormone disruption. Alternative formulas, though, may be as bad
* Amy Westervelt
* theguardian.com<http://www.theguardian.com/>, Friday 4 April 2014 15.41 EDT
[mascara by eye, close-up, cosmetics, make up]
Cosmetic company, Avon, has announced that it will stop using the antimicrobial chemical triclosan in its products. Photograph: Getty Images
Even before the US Food and Drug Administration began mulling a rule late last year<http://consumerist.com/2013/12/16/fda-proposal-gives-makers-of-antibacterial-soap-a-year-to-prove-their-products-are-safe/> that would require companies to prove products containing the antimicrobial triclosan are both safe and effective, cosmetic makers were sending out press releases by the droves, announcing their intention to remove the chemical from product lines.
Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive have been reformulating to rid their products of triclosan - a suspected endocrine disruptor - for two years now. Avon joined that list this week, announcing<http://consumerist.com/2014/04/01/avon-to-phase-out-triclosan-from-products/> that it will begin phasing the chemical out of "the few" products in its line that include it.
As has been the case with other companies, Avon cites customer concern<http://www.avoncompany.com/corporatecitizenship/corporateresponsibility/resourcecenter/policies_and_procedures/triclosan.html> as its reason for reformulating, and has been tight-lipped about what will replace triclosan. "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, told the Guardian.
Triclosan's potential for hormone disruption (the science is strongest in support of its potential to disrupt thyroid function) is particularly problematic for Avon, which is arguably more visibly tied<http://www.avon.uk.com/PRSuite/crusade_hub.page> to pink-ribbon marketing and breast-cancer awareness than any other cosmetics company.
For it to lag behind Johnson & Johnson, whose commitment to phase out<http://www.cbsnews.com/news/johnson-johnson-to-phase-out-potentially-harmful-chemicals-by-2015/> potentially carcinogenic chemicals (including phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and preservatives that release formaldehyde) is now considered the industry standard for product safety among major manufacturers, is a problematic counterbalance to its position as the cosmetics industry poster child for breast cancer awareness.
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.
"The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics congratulates Avon for finally giving triclosan the boot," she said. "It's a hormonally active chemical that has no business being in cosmetics and personal care products."
"But triclosan is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unsafe chemicals in cosmetics. We want Avon to adopt a comprehensive policy that declares chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and other adverse health effects to be off limits in cosmetics and to support stricter regulation of the $71bn cosmetics industry so that everyone is protected."
Unlike many other chemicals of concern, triclosan is relatively easily phased out and companies have been ditching it since long before they started making commitments to phase out harmful chemicals. In both the US and European Union, products that contain triclosan have had to disclose it on their labels for years.
With news of triclosan's potential to disrupt hormones, more and more consumers were opting not to buy products that included it. Initially that wasn't easy. It was used in everything from toothpaste to dish soap to body wash. Over the last two years it began to slowly disappear from labels as companies reformulated to win back customers.
Given that, in addition to consumer preferences, it seems likely the FDA will be more closely regulating the chemical, there's little reason to keep using it. Especially since a number of studies<http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/45/Supplement_2/S137.long> indicate it's no more effective at killing bacteria than regular soap and water. It has clear antibacterial benefits when used in medical devices, but it has been fairly concretely shown to add little bacteria-fighting value to consumer products.
"Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soap and body wash products. Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water," the FDA wrote<http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm378542.htm> when issuing its proposed rule in December 2013.
Simply removing triclosan from the formula would seem to be the obvious solution for companies wishing to avoid the chemical. However, in many cases companies are opting to replace triclosan with quaternary ammonia compounds or quats, of which the most commonly used is benzalkonium chloride.
Unlike triclosan, quats can hide in plain sight on labels, where they go by many different names. The health data on quats is also more conclusive than the evidence on triclosan: In studies<http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/9/e003568.full?sid=e2e75ce0-58ff-4e13-b51d-75a73f839193> of the health effects of professional cleaning products, researchers have found that exposure to quats contributes to respiratory distress and irritation, exacerbating asthma in those who are already asthmatic and prompting asthma in those who are not.
Colgate, which rid its hand soaps of triclosan last year, has mostly replaced it with quats. Avon declined to provide additional details about its reformulation plans.
The increased use of quats is potentially bad news, according to "green" chemist Bruce Akers. "Little changes by the big companies are much larger than what the small companies can do," he says. "So if they make the right choices great, but if they make the wrong ones we're all stuck with it, to a certain extent."
Amy Westervelt is an Oakland, California-based freelance reporter who covers the environment, business and health
Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email: Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address: www.deq.virginia.gov<http://www.deq.virginia.gov/>
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permits
Industrial Pretreatment/Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail: P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218
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