Bath & Body Works store in Queenstown, Maryland on July 26, 2019 ( AFP / Jim Watson)

Posts mislead on Bath & Body Works safety warning

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Social media posts claim personal care products from retailer Bath & Body Works pose a danger to unborn babies, linking to a safety warning as evidence, and say a consumer advice non-profit can be paid for favorable ratings. But the company says such warnings are intended for industrial settings, not individual consumers, and the non-profit says it does not take such payments.

"Did you know that Bath & Body works products are actually not recommended to use while pregnant? Straight from their safety data sheet it reads 'suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child' and, 'may cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure,'" says an April 18, 2022 Facebook post that includes a link to a safety data sheet.

"Please stop trusting the EWG for their ratings because as it turns out, companies can PAY for good ratings," it says, referring to the Environmental Working Group non-profit.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken April 22, 2022

Similar claims appeared on Facebook here and here.

But Bath & Body Works, which sells soaps, beauty products and scented candles, says safety sheets such as the one linked to in the posts are intended for people dealing with large quantities of chemicals in industrial settings.

"Every Bath & Body Works product undergoes extensive review to ensure safety. Safety Data Sheets, like the one in the social media post, do not reflect the safety of products when used as directed," a spokesperson told AFP.

"Bath & Body Works posts these sheets to assist manufacturing companies and emergency personnel who need to know how to handle, store or dispose of large quantities of chemicals in industrial and manufacturing settings," the spokesperson said, adding that the company has not paid money to EWG.

EWG took aim in a blog post at "misinformation" about its rating system.

"Companies cannot pay to have a better hazard score in EWG's databases," it says, adding: "Contrary to what the post claims, EWG does not charge a fee for a product to be rated in either our Skin Deep cosmetics database or our Guide to Healthy Cleaning."

But EWG stopped short of endorsing the safety of Bath & Body Works products, pointing out that many consumer and household items are not regulated and may contain hazardous substances.

The group's website lists some Bath & Body Works products as having "limited data," and says: "US law allows manufacturers of personal care and cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish, including known carcinogens and substances that can harm fetal and infant development. And the government doesn't review the safety of products before they're sold."