House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter and two colleagues asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban triclosan due to the hazards that this chemical poses, including antibiotic resistance and potentially leading to higher health care costs, citing both Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch along with other environmental groups. Rep. Slaughter, joined by Reps. Raul Grijalva and Betty McCollum, delivered the letter Tuesday, November 16, urging FDA to take immediate steps to stop the unnecessary exposure to this chemical in the U.S.
Rep. Slaughter concludes that “triclosan is clearly a threat to our health.” Among the reasons for her conclusion, she lists:
• The presence of triclosan in the human body and its impact on our “body burden;”
• Bacterial resistance to antibiotic medications and antibacterial cleaners;
• The potential for endocrine disruption as a result of triclosan bioaccumulation in the body;
• Wastewater contamination;
• The threat of destroying ecological balance, and;
• The fact that triclosan is no more effective than soap and water.
The scientific literature has extensivelly linked the non-medical uses of triclosan to many health and environmental hazards. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase risk for breast cancer. Triclosan is also 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, fish, umbilical cord blood and human milk. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives also found that triclosan was present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with higher levels in people in their third decade of life and among people with the highest household income.
Triclosan is regulated by both the FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); however, Rep. Slaughter focuses on FDA because it oversees its use in personal-care products, medical devices and products that come into contact with food, and triclosan is found in a growing number of these products. Beyond Pesticides, in partnership with Food and Water Watch and 78 other groups, has submitted petitions to both the FDA and EPA requiring that they end the use of all non-medically prescribed triclosan uses on the basis that those uses violate numerous federal statutes.
Echoing these petitions, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) also submitted letters of concern to both EPA and FDA. In FDA’s response, the agency acknowledged that soaps containing triclosan offer no additional benefit over regular soap and water. FDA stated that “existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients” and announced plans to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics or other products. FDA also expressed concern about the development of antibiotic resistance from using antibacterial products and about triclosan’s potential long-term health effects. Despite these concerns, however, the agency did not actually move ahead on the rule-making.
What is triclosan?
Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It may be found in products such as clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys. It also may be added to antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics—products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What is known about the safety of triclosan?
Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. But several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this ingredient that merit further review.
Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
In light of these studies, FDA is engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of this ingredient. FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.
Does triclosan provide a benefit in consumer products?
For some consumer products, there is clear evidence that triclosan provides a benefit. In 1997, FDA reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence showed that triclosan in this product was effective in preventing gingivitis.
For other consumer products, FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.
What consumers should know:
- Triclosan is not known to be hazardous to humans.
- FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.
- In light of questions raised by recent animal studies of triclosan, FDA is reviewing all of the available evidence on this ingredient’s safety in consumer products. FDA will communicate the findings of its review to the public in spring 2011.
- At this time, FDA does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. Consumers concerned about using hand and body soaps with triclosan should wash with regular soap and water.
- Consumers can check product labels to find out whether products contain triclosan.
How can I tell if there is triclosan in a product that I am using?
Antibacterial soaps and body washes, and toothpastes are considered over-the-counter drugs. If an over-the-counter drug contains triclosan, it will be listed as an ingredient on the label, in the Drug Facts box. If a cosmetic contains triclosan, it will be included in the ingredient list on the product label.
What is FDA doing to evaluate the safety of triclosan?
We are engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of the safety of triclosan in FDA-regulated products. We also have partnered with other Federal Agencies to study the effects of this substance on animal and environmental health (see http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm4; http://www.epa.gov/endo/5).
FDA is working to incorporate the most up-to-date data and information into the regulations that govern the use of triclosan in consumer products. FDA will communicate the findings of its review to the public in spring 2011.
This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page6, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
Products Containing Triclosan
Below is a small sampling of the thousands of products containing triclosan and is not to be considered a complete list. Not only are new products introduced every day, but a product’s formula may change without notice. Remember to always refer to product labels to determine whether triclosan is contained in your product.
Soap: Dial® Liquid Soap; Softsoap® Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap; Tea Tree Therapy™ Liquid Soap; Provon® Soap; Clearasil® Daily Face Wash; Dermatologica® Skin Purifying Wipes; Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser; DermaKleen™ Antibacterial Lotion Soap; Naturade Aloe Vera 80® Antibacterial Soap; CVS Antibacterial Soap, pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin Cleanser, Ajax Antibacterial Dishsoap, Ultra Concentrated Dawn Antibacterial Dishsoap, PROVON medicated lotion soap, Murad Clarifying Cleanser, Rainbow Research Antibacterial Soap For Kids, FNC Medical Ca-Rezz Wash, Kimcare Antibacterial Clear Soap, Bath and Body Works Antibacterial Hand Soaps, Gels and Foaming Sanitizers.
Dental Care: Colgate Total®; Breeze™ Triclosan Mouthwash; Reach® Antibacterial Toothbrush
Cosmetics: Supre® Café Bronzer™; TotalSkinCare Makeup Kit; Garden Botanika® Powder Foundation; Mavala Lip Base; Blemish Cover Stick; Movate® Skin Litening Cream HQ; Paul Mitchell Detangler Comb, Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Babor Volume Mascara, Phytomer, Cosmolara™, Bath and Body Works Antibacterial Moisturizing Lotions.
Deodorant: Queen Helene® Tea Trea Oil Deodorant and Aloe Deodorant; Nature De France Le Stick Natural Stick Deodorant; DeCleor Deodorant Stick; Epoch® Deodorant with Citrisomes; X Air Maximum Strength Deodorant.
Other Personal Care Products: Gillette® Complete Skin Care MultiGel Aerosol Shave Gel; Murad Acne Complex® Kit, ®; Diabet-x™ Cream; T.Taio™ sponges and wipes, Scunci Microban Comb, Sportslick Pocket Slick.
First Aid: SyDERMA® Skin Protectant plus First Aid Antiseptic; Solarcaine® First Aid Medicated Spray; Nexcare™ First Aid, Skin Crack Care; First Aid/Burn Cream; HealWell® Night Splint; 11-1X1: Universal Cervical Collar with Microban, Brave Soldier Antiseptic Healing Ointment.
Kitchenware: Farberware® Microban Cutting Boards; Franklin Machine Products FMP Ice Cream Scoop SZ 20 Microban; Hobart Semi-Automatic Slicer; Chix® Food Service Wipes with Microban; Compact Web Foot® Wet Mop Heads.
Computer Equipment: Fellowes Cordless Microban Keyboard and Microban Mouse Pad.
Clothes: Merrell Water Sandals; Fruit of the Loom Socks; Biofresh® socks, Argentovivo Stilfresh underwear.
Children’s Toys: Playskool®: Stack ‘n Scoop Whale, Rockin’ Radio, Hourglass, Sounds Around Driver, Roll ‘n Rattle Ball, Animal Sounds Phone, Busy Beads Pal, Pop ‘n Spin Top, Lights ‘n Surprise Laptop.
Other: Ticonderoga® No. 2 pencil, Bionare® Cool Mist Humidifier; Microban® All Weather Reinforced Hose; Thomasville® Furniture; Deciguard AB Ear Plugs; Bauer® 5000 Helmet; Aquatic Whirlpools; Miller Paint Interior Paint; Holmes Foot Buddy™ Foot Warmer, Blue Mountain Wall Coverings, California Paints®, EHC AMRail Escalator Handrails, Dupont™ Air Filters, Durelle™ Carpet Cushions, Advanta One Laminate Floors, San Luis Blankets, J Cloth® towels, JERMEX mops, select Quicke cleaning products, BioEars earplugs, Elizabeth’SPA™ bath and body products, Purely Bath™ bath and body accessories, Petmate® LeBistro feeders and waterers, Infantino cart covers and baby carriers, Oreck XL®, Bissell Healthy Home Vacuum™, NuTone® Central Vacuum systems, Rival® Seal-A-Meal® Vacuum Food Sealer, CleenFreek SportsHygiene Yoga Mat.