Who knew that something as simple as washing your hands could be contentious?
Triclosan, a chemical [a pesticide] is commonly used in anti-bacterial soaps, and has been under scrutiny from the public health and environmental community for it’s negative health and environmental impacts. The FDA recently announced that they would – finally – regulate the use of triclosan in “consumer hand products,” which has yet to be defined by the FDA.
More on that in a moment.
First, triclosan is commonly used in:
Note it’s used in a wide variety of products, not just soap
- Anti-bacterial soaps
- Cutting boards
- Yoga mats
- Household cleaners
- Hand sanitizers
Side note: it’s pronounced [trick-low-san]
NRDC has a great fact sheet on the chemical here.
Problems with triclosan:
- Endocrine (hormone) disruption
- Potential antibiotic resistance
- Contributes to the formation of dioxin
- Pregnancy problems
- Impaired muscle function
- Water pollution – Found in the Great Lakes
- Altered thyroid hormone receptor
- Learning disabilities
- Liver and inhalation toxicity
- Skin, eye, and lung irritation
The funny thing is that many public health experts have shown that triclosan isn’t even effective at reducing bacteria or viruses (sound familiar – toxic flame retardants?).
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
“In April 2010, FDA acknowledged soaps containing triclosan offer no additional benefit over regular soap and water.”
Better late than never?
Our partners at NRDC, asked the FDA to regulate triclosan in 1978. After years of inaction NRDC sued the FDA and this week the courts settled that the FDA would have to finalize regulations on the use of triclosan in “consumer hand products.” Depending on how the FDA defines consumer hand products, it could be restricted in hand soap, hand sanitizers etc.
While we must take a moment to pause and celebrate this victory (yay!) it’s important to note that the use of triclosan, among other chemicals in other consumer products, is widespread.
We need federal laws that seek to comprehensively remove harmful chemicals from the market and in the short term we need retailers to use their market power to move the supply chain away from chemicals like triclosan.
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families leads the Mind the Store campaign, aimed at working with and pushing the nation’s top ten retailers to address toxic chemicals in the supply chain in a comprehensive way.
Triclosan is one of the chemicals we’ve asked retailers to eliminate and safely replace. The other chemicals on our Hazardous 100+ list, can be viewed here.
The environmental exposures to chemicals like triclosan in our lakes, rivers, drinking water and soil are reason for concern. And the science around these chemicals and their links to public health problems is real.
Send the nation’s top ten retailers an email asking them to take action on toxic chemicals.
And if you’re on Twitter, take a moment to thank our friends at NRDC for their great work on triclosan.
— Lindsay Dahl (@Lindsay_SCHF) December 12, 2013