From the Associated Press (Matthew Perrone) via The Denver Post:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to deliver a review this year of whether triclosan is safe. The ruling, which will determine whether triclosan continues to be used in household cleaners, could have implications for a $1 billion industry that includes hundreds of antibacterial products from toothpaste to toys. The agency’s review comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers, consumer advocates and others who are concerned about the safety of triclosan. Recent studies of triclosan in animals have led scientists to worry that it could increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems in humans. “To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now,” said Allison Aiello, professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. “At this point, it’s just looking like a superfluous chemical.”[…]
The concerns over triclosan offer a sobering glimpse at a little-known fact: Many chemicals used in everyday household products have never been formally approved by U.S. health regulators. That’s because many germ-killing chemicals were developed decades ago before there were laws requiring scientific review of cleaning ingredients.
The controversy also highlights how long it can take the federal government to review the safety of such chemicals. It’s not uncommon for the process to drag on for years, since regulators must review volumes of research and take comments from the public on each draft…
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 agents is “one of the highest priorities” for the agency, but did not offer an explanation for the delay.
Triclosan was initially used in hospitals in the 1970s as a scrub for surgeons preparing to perform an operation. It was also used to coat the surfaces of catheters, stitches and other surgical instruments. Beginning in the 1990s, triclosan began making its way into hundreds of antibacterial consumer goods, ranging from soap to socks to lunchboxes. The growth has in part been fueled by Americans who believe that antibacterial ingredients provide an added level of protection against germs.
As the use of triclosan has expanded, more scientists have questioned its effectiveness. In 2007, researchers at the University of Michigan and other universities compiled data from 30 studies looking at the use of antibacterial soaps. The results showed soaps with triclosan were no more effective at preventing illness or reducing bacteria on the hands than plain soap. Other studies have shown that longer hand-washing improves results far more than adding antibacterial ingredients. The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing hands at least 20 seconds. The CDC also recommends using hand sanitizer — most of which use alcohol or ethanol to kill germs, not chemicals like triclosan — if soap and water are not available…
A 2009 study by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency showed that triclosan decreases levels of testosterone and sperm production in male rats. Female rats exposed to triclosan showed signs of early puberty and altered levels of estrogen and thyroid hormones.
And a 2010 study by University of Florida researchers found that triclosan interfered with the transfer of estrogen to growing fetuses in pregnant sheep. Estrogen is important in both male and female development because it promotes the growth of organs like the lungs and liver.
More water pollution coverage here.