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FDA Reviews Safety of Common Antibacterial Chemical After Concerns Raised

Posted on August 24, 2011

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the safety of antibacterial soaps that contain the active ingredient, a chemical known as triclosan. It was created more than 40 years ago to be used in hospitals as a surgical scrub. Today, consumers find it in many products, such as Dial Complete hand soap, which advertises that it kills more germs than any other brand, and in Colgate Total toothpaste. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found triclosan in the urine of 75 percent of Americans over the age of 5.

Like other chemicals released into the environment without testing, triclosan has been shown to alter hormone function in lab animals or cause us to be resistant to antibiotics. Soap containing triclosan has been found to be no more effective than soap and water, according to the FDA.

The federal agency was scheduled to release results of its review several months ago and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also looking into triclosan and expected to come up with a policy statement. Industry is pushing back as these antibacterial soaps represent about half of the $750 million annual market. The manufacturer of Dial Complete says there is no real evidence showing triclosan is harmful to humans. Other manufacturers are responding to consumer preferences and have removed triclosan from face washes and hand soaps such as Softsoap. The ingredient can still be found in Colgate Total Toothpaste.

In an April 2010 announcement concerning triclosan the agency said it, “does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.” However, changes to triclosan use have been under consideration as far back as 1972.

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/business/triclosan-an-antibacterial-chemical-in-consumer-products-raises-safety-issues.html?_r=1&ref=health and http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm207833.htm