Is Antibacterial Soap Safe?

But federal health regulators are just now deciding whether triclosan – the germ-killing component found in an estimated 75 percent of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes bought from the U.S. The U.S. This season of whether triclosan is safe Food and Medication Administration is likely to deliver an assessment. 1 billion industry that includes a huge selection of antibacterial products from toothpaste to toys. The agency’s review comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers, consumer others and advocates who are concerned about the basic safety of triclosan. Recent studies of triclosan in animals have led scientists to worry that it could raise the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems in humans.

Allison Aiello, teacher at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. The concerns over triclosan offer a sobering glance at a little-known reality: Many chemicals found in everyday household products have never been officially approved by U.S. That’s because many germ-killing chemicals were developed years ago before there were laws requiring medical review of cleaning ingredients.

The controversy also highlights how long it can take the government to examine the safety of such chemicals. It isn’t uncommon for the procedure to pull on for years, since regulators must review amounts of research and take comments from the general public on each draft. Regarding triclosan, Congress transferred a regulation in 1972 requiring that the FDA arranged guidelines for a large number of common antibacterial chemicals found in over-the-counter soaps and scrubs. The guidelines function like a cookbook for manufacturers, describing which chemicals can be utilized in what products, and in what amounts.

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In 1978, the FDA published its first tentative guidelines for chemicals found in liquid hands washes and soaps. The draft mentioned that triclosan was “not generally recognized as effective and safe,” because regulators could not find enough scientific research demonstrating its safety and effectiveness. The FDA published several drafts of the guidelines over the years, however the agency never finalized the results. So, companies never have had to remove triclosan from their products. Meanwhile, the agency did approve triclosan for use in Colgate’s Total toothpaste in 1997, after Colgate-Palmolive Co. posted data showing that the ingredient helped battle gingivitis.

Then, last summer, the FDA said its review of triclosan would be complete by late 2012. That target date then slipped to February, which has also come and gone. But strain on the agency from outside critics didn’t let up. In March, a federal appeals courtroom said a lawsuit by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council aimed at forcing the FDA to complete its review could move forward. A three-judge panel reinstated the 2010 lawsuit, which have been tossed out by a lesser court, stating the nonprofit group offered evidence that triclosan could potentially be dangerous. Now, four decades after it was charged with reviewing triclosan, the FDA is planning to complete its review.

FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said evaluating triclosan and other antibacterial agencies is “one of the highest priorities” for the agency, but did not offer a conclusion for the hold off. The American Cleaning Institute, a cleaning products trade company, says it has provided reams of data to FDA displaying that triclosan is both secure and efficient. Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the group, whose members include Colgate-Palmolive and Henkel Consumer Goods Inc., maker of Dial soap.

While normally it takes years for the government to make guidelines, people of Congress say there is little precedent for the FDA’s four-decade overview of triclosan. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, who asked the FDA to take a closer look at triclosan this year 2010 after the European Union prohibited the chemical from products that come into connection with food.

U.S. scientists agree that the FDA’s review is overdue. The Endocrine Society, a group of doctors and researchers who focus on the hormone system, flagged triclosan four years ago as an ingredient that alters degrees of thyroid hormones and reproductive human hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Dr. Andrea Gore of the University of Texas at Austin, who was simply the lead writer of the Endocrine Society’s declaration on hormone disrupting chemicals. Some Americans are surprised that the FDA has taken so long.

Mallory Smith is stressed to learn that the government has never confirmed the security of antibacterial soap’s key component. Smith, who works for the government, says she keeps antibacterial cleaning soap in the kitchen to clean her hands after she’s handled raw meat. Others are less surprised by the government’s multi-decade review. David Fisher, who markets restaurant equipment in Arizona. Ironically, triclosan first became widely used because it was considered safer than an older antibacterial ingredient, hexachlorophene. That chemical was prohibited from household items in 1972 after FDA scientists discovered that toxic levels could be assimilated through your skin.