(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2010) The House Energy and Environment Subcommittee chairman asked federal regulators for an open discussion about the health and environmental impacts of two controversial chemicals- triclosan and triclocarban- commonly found in antimicrobial hand soaps and other consumer products.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is asking U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for answers to questions about triclosan and triclocarban. The synthetic antimicrobial chemicals are found in many soaps, toothpastes, deodorants and cosmetics. “Despite serious questions regarding the safety of these potentially dangerous products, these substances seem to exist in a regulatory black hole,” Rep. Markey said in a statement. “We must ensure that these products … kill germs without adversely impacting human health.” Read letter to EPA and FDA.
In the letter to EPA, Rep. Markey questions whether the agency is reviewing existing data on the two chemicals, and if it has made a decision about further regulating them. He also asked if the agency has examined the impact of triclosan on wildlife, and whether it plans to evaluate the chemicals under its hormone-screening program, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The lawmaker also pushed FDA on its plan for finalizing a rule regarding over-the-counter topical antimicrobial products. The agency first proposed such a rule 37 years ago and published a draft rule several years later, but Rep. Markey also wants to know if FDA has evaluated the chemicals for their endocrine-disrupting properties, as well as potential low-dose exposure impacts on human health and the environment. EPA completed triclosan’s reregistration review in September 2008 and intends to look at the chemical again in 2013. FDA however, has not reviewed triclosan.
Beyond Pesticides is actively working with other environmental and community groups to ban the non-medical uses of triclosan. Beyond Pesticides believes that the long-term risks associated with continued and widespread use of these chemicals inevitably put public health at risk. In July and again in December 2008, Beyond Pesticides, Food and Water Watch, and dozens of public health and environmental groups from the U.S. and Canada, urged EPA to use its authority to cancel the non-medical uses of the antibacterial chemical triclosan in order to protect human health and the environment. Last July, Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch submitted an amended petition to FDA seeking to ban the use of the controversial pesticide triclosan for non-medical applications. The petition establishes that FDA’s allowance of triclosan in the retail market violates the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.
Scientific studies indicate that widespread use of triclosan causes a number of serious health and environmental problems. Among these issues is the resistance to antibiotic medications and bacterial cleansers, a problem for all people, but especially vulnerable populations such as infants and the elderly. Triclosan has also been shown to act as an endocrine disruptor affecting thyroid hormones. Other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in waterways, fish, human milk and urine. Further, the pesticide can also interact with other chemicals to form dioxin and other dangerous chemicals. The U.S Geological Survey (USGS) finds that triclosan is one of the most detected chemicals in U.S. waterways and at some of the highest concentrations. Triclosan has also been found to be highly toxic to different types of algae, keystone organisms for complex aquatic ecosystems. A recent U.S. EPA survey of sewage sludge found that triclosan and triclocarban were detected in sewage sludge at the highest concentrations out of 72 tested pharmaceuticals.
For more information, visit our Antibacterial Webpage.