EPA Urged To Ban Toxic Antibacterial Chemical Linked to Hormone Disruption and Widespread Water Contamination, as Comment Period Closes
(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2010) In response to a petition submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for a ban on the non-medical uses of triclosan, Beyond Pesticides is again urging the agency to halt the use of the antibacterial triclosan in consumer products. Citing recent scientific evidence detailing hormone disruption, impaired fetal development, water and crop contamination, the petitioners state that given the emerging science and the violation of numerous environmental statues by triclosan’s use constitutes placing a ban on the chemical.
In comments submitted in support of the petition, Beyond Pesticides state that such a dangerous chemical has no place on the consumer marketplace. “The nonmedical uses of triclosan are frivolous and dangerous, creating serious long-term health problems and environmental hazards associated with its continued use. EPA has a responsibility to ban consumer triclosan use in a marketplace where safer alternatives are available to manage bacteria” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
Triclosan’s impact on the consumer market has been aided by a false public perception that antibacterial products are best to protect and safeguard against potential harmful bacteria. However, research into triclosan’s health and environmental impacts shows triclosan does more harm than good, despite its widespread consumer use. Studies find that it persists in the environment, has endocrine disrupting properties, accumulates in breast milk and other fatty tissues, and can cause adverse health problems not only in humans, but in wildlife species. Studies released this past year find that triclosan interferes with estrogen metabolism in women and can disrupt a vital enzyme during pregnancy. This is troubling because triclosan is detected in the bodies of pregnant women at levels higher than nonpregnant women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports document triclosan in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with the most recent 2010 update finding that the levels of triclosan in the U.S. population have increased by 42% between 2004 and 2006. Similarly, USDA scientists found that triclosan is only slowly degraded in biosolids and persists at low levels in the environment for long periods of time. Biosolids are typically recycled onto agricultural lands. This persistent chemical can then be taken up and translocated in plants like the soybean, a cornerstone of the American diet. The prevalence of triclosan in the nation’s waterways is a cause for concern since triclosan is converted into several toxic compounds including various forms of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds when exposed to sunlight in an aqueous environment.
Triclosan has exploded onto the marketplace in hundreds of consumer products ranging from antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics, toys, and other household and personal care products. While antibacterial products are marketed as agents that protect and safeguard against potential harmful bacteria, studies conclude that antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps.
The petition, filed January 2010, is supported by over 80 environmental and public health groups and cites triclosan’s violation of numerous federal statues including the Clean Water Act, 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.