(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2011) Since the submission of a federal petition last year calling for the ban of the antibacterial pesticide triclosan from consumer products, along with numerous published studies highlighting the serious adverse effects resulting from exposure, as well as increased consumer awareness, major companies are succumbing to public pressure to remove this chemical from their products. Recently Colgate-Palmolive, makers of Colgate Total and Softsoap antibacterial hand soaps, has removed triclosan from most of its products.
Numerous developments last year, including the petition to ban triclosan submitted by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch along with over 80 environmental and public health groups, citing triclosan’s violation of numerous federal statues, as well as the increasing scientific data on triclosan’s hormone disrupting effects and long-term environmental contamination, have placed triclosan under media and congressional scrutiny. Companies are now quietly moving to remove triclosan from their products ahead of potential regulatory action and increasing consumer and retailer rejection.
Colgate-Palmolive is reformulating its popular soap products to exclude triclosan. The orange-colored ”˜Ultra-Palmolive Antibacterial,’ the antibacterial dish-cleaning liquid will no longer contatin triclosan as its active ingredient and will no longer make the claim of being a “hand soap,” but will strictly be marketed as a dish soap, placing its label claims under the jurisdiction of EPA and not FDA, which has done little to regulate this toxic chemical. Colgate-Palmolive is also removing triclosan from its hand soaps. It formerly marketed Softsoap brand antibacterial hand soap containing triclosan, with a label claiming elimination of 99 percent of germs. It is now rolling out a new line of Softsoap hand soaps, which state that they “wash away bacteria.” Antibacterial soaps have been shown to be no more effective at removing bacteria than regular soap and water. However, Colgate-Palmolive is retaining use of triclosan in its Total brand toothpaste, a line that the company claims fights gingivitis.
Similarly, major retailers like Staples, the world’s largest office products company, are also beginning to identify “bad actor” chemicals whose future use in the products they carry will be reconsidered. Last October, Staples announced a new sustainability strategy for products and packaging, characterizing it as a “Race to the Top” challenge for its key suppliers. The strategy’s initial priority includes collaboratively developed scorecards for both products and packaging. Staples hopes to begin conservations with its suppliers about the possibility of removing these “bad actors” from products and to replace them with alternatives. Among these “bad actor” chemicals is triclosan, along with the pesticides permethrin, and propoxur.
Beyond Pesticides, in partnership with Food and Water Watch and 80 other groups, submitted petitions to both the FDA and EPA requiring that they end the use of all non-medically prescribed triclosan uses on the basis that those uses violate numerous federal statutes. Echoing these petitions, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) also submitted letters of concern to both EPA and FDA. In FDA’s response, the agency acknowledged that soaps containing triclosan offer no additional benefit over regular soap and water. FDA stated that “existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients” and announced plans to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics or other products. FDA also expressed concern about the development of antibiotic resistance from using antibacterial products and about triclosan’s potential long-term health effects. Last fall, House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter and two colleagues asked FDA to ban triclosan due to the hazards that the chemical poses, including antibiotic resistance and potential health problems leading to higher health care costs.
The scientific literature has extensively linked the uses of triclosan to many health and environmental hazards. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites contaminate waterways and are present in fish, umbilical cord blood and human milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004.
TAKE ACTION: On December 8, 201,0 EPA published Beyond Pesticides’ petition calling for the ban of triclosan in consumer products for public comment. Comments are being accepted until February 7, 2011. Please submit your comments urging the agency to ban this controversial chemical at the Federal docket at www.regulation.gov using docket number: EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0548. Or you can go submit comments directly here. Sample comments can be found here. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for action alerts and updates on triclosan.
(Please note that the Regulations.gov site is currently experiencing problems with the Google Chrome and Safari browsers, so if possible please use Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox to submit comments. If you are having any additional trouble submitting comments online, please contact the Regulations.gov Help Desk at 1-877-378-5457.) Comments must be submitted by February 7, 2010.
You can also join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Avoid products containing triclosan, and encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.