(Beyond Pesticides, January 15, 2010) Yesterday, environmental and health groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the use of the widely used antimicrobial pesticide triclosan, which is linked to endocrine disruption, cancer and antibiotic resistance and found in 75% of people tested in government biomonitoring studies. Over 75 groups, lead by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch, say EPA must act to stop the use of a chemical now commonly found in soaps, toothpaste, deordorants, cosmetics, clothing, and plastic, with a nearly $1 billion market and growing. In their petition, the groups cite numerous statutes under which they believe the government must act to stop non-medical uses of triclosan, including laws regulating pesticide registration, use and residues, clean and safe drinking water, and endangered species.
“Given its widespread environmental contamination and public health risk, EPA has a responsibility to ban household triclosan use in a marketplace where safer alternatives are available to manage bacteria,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
“Scientific studies indicate that widespread use of triclosan causes a number of serious health and environmental problems,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “EPA needs to ban its use in non-medical settings and stop allowing companies that market triclosan to exploit consumer fears regarding bacterial-borne illnesses.”
Research indicates that widespread use of triclosan causes a number of serious health and environmental problems. Chief among these issues is resistance to antibiotic medications and bacterial cleansers, a problem for all people, but especially vulnerable populations such as infants and the elderly. Triclosan is also a known endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase the risk for cancer. Further, the pesticide can interact with other chemicals to form chloroform and breakdown to dioxin, thereby exposing consumers to even more dangerous chemicals.
Exposure to triclosan is widespread and now found in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, according to the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, published by the CDC. Due to the fact that many products containing triclosan are washed down the drain, triclosan shows up in water systems and sewage sludge. Accumulation of the pesticide in waterways and soil has been shown to threaten ecosystems and produce hazardous residues in fish.
Regulated by both EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, triclosan is commonly found in hand soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, facial tissues, antiseptics, fabrics, toys, and medical devices. The petition to EPA seeks expedited action by the agency to ban household triclosan use, challenging serious deficiencies in EPA’s September 2008 reregistration of triclosan and its failure to comply with environmental statutes.
Triclosan is a widely used antibacterial agent found in hundreds of consumer products, from hand soap, toothpaste and deodorant to cutting boards, socks and toys. A recent study found that triclosan alters thyroid function in male rats. Other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in waterways, fish, human milk, serum, urine, and foods. A U.S Geological Survey (USGS) study found that triclosan is one of the most detected chemicals in U.S. waterways and at some of the highest concentrations. Triclosan has been found to be highly toxic to different types of algae, keystone organisms for complex aquatic ecosystems. A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) survey of sewage sludge found that triclosan and its cousin triclocarban were detected in sewage sludge at the highest concentrations out of 72 tested pharmaceuticals.
Seving as attorney for the petitioners is Perry Wallace, Professor of Law at the Washington College of Law of the American University, and a litigator with the firm of Zelle, Hofmann, Voelbel, Mason & Gette, with offices in Washington, D.C.
For more information on triclosan and its impacts on human and environmental health, visit our Antibacterial program page. Download petition here: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/antibacterial/triclosan-epa-petition.pdf