The FDA has been urged to settle a 40-year-old review of the antibacterial chemical triclosan. Nixon was president when Congress first tasked the FDA to develop guidelines for common antibacterials used in consumer products, but the agency never finalized its draft guidelines. As a result, triclosan was not pulled from existing product ingredients, and was incorporated into new products as antibacterials were touted as safe protection against germs. The standing FDA position on triclosan is that “the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”
Beyond not having any proven benefit, triclosan may also be dangerous. In the past few years, a lawsuit from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a ban in the European Union, and a decision from healthcare giant Kaiser to pull triclosan out of its hospitals are all indications of growing concern about the safety and necessity of triclosan. Recent studies back up these decisions. It’s been proven that triclosan is a hormone disrupter, may restrict muscle contractions in mice and fish, and widespread use contributes to the development of superbugs – antibiotic resistant bacteria. It’s worth noting that the FDA (tasked with the role of ensuring foods and drugs are safe for consumers) often plays a reactionary role, responding to pressure after many consumers have already been put at risk. There is no comprehensive safety testing for household products that come into contact with food, skin or lungs before they are put on the market. We’re hopeful that this FDA review will wrap up after 40 years and yield safer products without antibacterial chemicals. In the meantime, check out resources provided by the Environmental Working Group. Among many great consumer safety guides, they have a page on triclosan. Read more on the FDA’s review of triclosan at cbsnews.com.