FDA Is Trying (Again) To Clean Up Your Hand Soap

Triclosan in the News again…

fda trying to clean up soap

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The federal Food and Drug administration has announced proposed rules that could drive unnecessary and potentially dangerous products from the market — antibacterial hand soaps like those marketed by Dial, Softsoap and CVS.

This is a big deal.

About half of the liquid hand soaps sold in the U.S. contain antibacterial chemicals, according to marketing research reported in the New York Times. If the FDA’s rule becomes final, it will require manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps are safe for long-term use. If they can’t, they will be forced to reformulate, relabel or remove these products from the shelves by 2015.

What’s wrong with killing germs? Plenty, when antibacterial chemicals come into play. A number of scientific studies have suggested that they encourage the spread of drug-resistant disease-causing microorganisms. A recent report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that antibiotic resistance has reached “potentially catastrophic” proportions. At least 2 million people become infected and 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of infections caused by bacteria that have mutated to survive antibiotics, according to the CDC. The agency estimates that illnesses and lost productivity cost the American economy up to $35 billion a year.

Triclosan is the most common antibacterial chemical in consumer handsoaps. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies triclosan as a pesticide. It is a chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbon synthesized from petroleum byproducts. Like other substances in this category, it shares chemical characteristics with other toxic chemicals such as some PCBs, and some PBDE flame retardants.

A study published earlier this year found that asthmatic children with higher concentrations of triclosan in their bodies were more likely to be sensitized to inhaled allergens. In studies of lab animals, triclosan has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and alter the body’s production of hormones. Though its effects on children are not clearly understood, its impact on the endocrine systems of mammals raises serious concerns. Triclosan has been shown to persist in the environment and to wreak havoc with the endocrine systems of aquatic animals. When it degrades in sunlight, it often converts into a toxic chemical in the notorious dioxin family.

The FDA first proposed to regulate antibacterials in soaps in 1974. Some 35 years later, its regulation is still a work in progress. Meanwhile, antibacterial agents have become ubiquitous in housewares. It is difficult to purchase a dish rack, counter top or food storage container without added antibacterial chemicals. Triclosan is commonly found not only in liquid hand soaps but also in toothpaste, detergents, plastics, furniture, school supplies and in textiles labeled with the Microban trade name. In 2008, EWG tested 20 teenage girls and found measurable levels of triclosan in all of them, We have repeatedly warned consumers not to use soaps with triclosan and have urged the FDA to ban it.

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