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Antibacterial Agent Under FDA Review

April 9, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it was reviewing the safety of triclosan, which is a popular antibacterial agent found in soap, toothpaste and a variety of other products.

Although the agency said there are no grounds to recommend any changes in the use of triclosan, some say recent studies merit a closer look.

Reuters reports that Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey feels there should be strict limits.

“Despite the fact that this chemical is found in everything from soaps to socks, there are many troubling questions about triclosan’s effectiveness and potentially harmful effects, especially for children,” Markey said in a statement.

“I call upon the federal government to ban the use of triclosan in consumer soaps and hand-washes, products intended for use by children, and products intended to come into contact with food. In addition, I will soon introduce legislation to speed up the government’s efforts to evaluate and regulate other substances that may pose similar public health concerns.”

The FDA said there is no evidence that triclosan is harmful to people, however it did say an animal study showed the chemical could alter hormone regulation.  Also, several other lab studies showed that bacteria may be able to evolve resistance to triclosan in a way that helps them resist antibiotics.

However, other studies have found no evidence that this actually occurred in nature.  The Environmental Protection Agency said it would speed up its planned review of triclosan.

“FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time,” the agency said in a statement posted at http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm205999.htm.

The Soap and Detergent Association has defended the use of triclosan, which has been around for 30 years.

One environmental group welcomed the FDA’s review.

“It’s about time FDA has finally stated its concerns about antibacterial chemicals like triclosan,” said Dr. Sarah Janssen of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The public deserves to know that these so-called antibacterial products are no more effective in preventing infections than regular soap and water and may, in fact, be dangerous to their health in the long run.”

Many experts say soap that contains triclosan does little or nothing extra to remove bacteria compared to soaps without the ingredient.

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