Pesticide in Soap, Toothpaste and Breast Milk - Is It Kid-Safe?

Summary & Recommendations

July 17, 2008

Pesticide in Soap, Toothpaste and Breast Milk - Is It Kid-Safe?: Necessary Changes

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved triclosan for use in 20 pesticide formulations applied to 140 types of consumer products, without ever assessing the safety of this pesticide for babies and children. Triclosan persists in the environment, breaks down into substances highly toxic to wildlife, pollutes the human body, and poses health risks that are barely studied and poorly understood.

A 2005 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (2005) found an average of 200 industrial chemicals, pesticides and pollutants in 10 newborn babies tested. Triclosan is just one of many common pollutants now found in the human body. We need a system of public health protections that protects children and others who are vulnerable from health impacts that can stem from the diverse, lifelong pattern of exposures to industrial chemicals that each person in this country endures. Babies should not be born pre-polluted with industrial chemicals. And they certainly shouldn't be born into the world polluted with a hand soap pesticide that doesn't work any better than plain soap and water.

EWG calls on EPA to conduct a thorough risk assessment of triclosan that would protect the health of people and the environment alike. We recommend:

  • EPA should immediately request all missing studies from the pesticide manufacters, to procure data that will allow the Agency to rigorously assess the safety of triclosan for the fetus, infant, child, and other vulnerable populations. The Agency should fully evaluate the safety of the highly toxic breakdown products of triclosan, especially for children and the environment.
  • FDA should ban the use of triclosan in personal care products, including liquid hand soap, body wash and other cleansers, which have not been shown to provide benefits over plain soap and water in independent studies [list of publications].
  • Consumers should avoid the use of triclosan-laden products whenever possible. Wash hands, children's toys and other bacteria-prone surfaces often, with plain soap and water, to control the spread of infection. EWG's Guide to Triclosan can help.
  • Manufacturers should curtail their use of this toxic, persistent chemical in consumer products, voluntarily in advance of mandatory restrictions.

Ultimately, the government should establish a system of public health protections that requires chemical companies to prove their products are safe before they are sold, for children and other vulnerable groups. Until we have such a system, chemicals like triclosan will continue to slip through the cracks to pollute the environment and people across the country, posing potential health risks that are poorly studied and little understood.