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Lawmaker Seeks Triclosan Ban

Apr 9, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, is pushing for a ban on triclosan, a chemical used in hand sanitizers, soaps and other household products. In studies, triclosan has been shown to cause endocrine  disruptions in animals, and other research has indicated that the chemical might help to create bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Triclosan is already banned or restricted in other countries. Just recently, the European Union banned the chemical from any products that come into contact with food.

In the U.S. triclosan is actually regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), as well the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). The FDA has been working for 38 years to establish the rules for the use of triclosan, but hasn't finished doing so.

“Despite the fact that this chemical is found in everything from soaps to socks, there are many troubling questions about triclosan’s effectiveness and potentially harmful effects, especially for children,” said Markey. “There is clear evidence that many consumer products that contain it are no more effective than those that do not. However, triclosan continues to be used in products that saturate the marketplace. Consumers—especially parents—need to know that many of these products are not only ineffective, they may also be dangerous.”

In January, Markey sent a letter to the FDA requesting information about the status of FDA’s ongoing review of triclosan in consumer products . He also sent a similar letter to the EPA. Yesterday, Markey  released correspondence from both agencies that raise serious concerns about the chemical.

In its response to Markey, the FDA said it has not finalized its rules that govern topical antiseptics including soaps, and has not announced plans to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics or other products. The agency said that, in light of animal studies raising questions about triclosan’s safety, it is engaged in an ongoing scientific review to incorporate the most up-to-date data and information into the regulations that govern consumer products containing triclosan. The FDA also stated that it is “not aware of any evidence that antibacterial washes were superior to plain soap and water for reducing transmission of or preventing infection for consumers.”

The EPA letter released by Markey noted that a review of the substance under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) provided evidence of triclosan’s endocrine disrupting potential. However, the letter also noted that the EPA has no plans to re-evaluate its regulations surrounding the use of triclosan until 2013. Additionally, the agency acknowledged that it does not currently set drinking water standards for triclosan, and it does not consider antibiotic resistance as a factor when deciding which chemicals to monitor or regulate in drinking water.

The responses from the EPA and FDA prompted Markey to announce plans to introduce legislation that will accelerate the evaluation and regulation of substances such as triclosan that may harm the human endocrine system.

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