FDA Taking a Closer Look at the Health Effects of a Widespread Household Chemical

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into the health effects of a common chemical called triclosan, which is found in certain soaps, toothpaste, shower curtains and gym socks. The FDA is investigating scientific data indicating that the chemical causes hormonal changes in lab animals.  Triclosan is added to products to reduce or inhibit bacteria growth and was originally used as a surgical scrub.  At this time, the FDA has not recommended that consumers change products but has said that consumers concerned about using soap with triclosan can use regular soap.  Concerned consumers can check product labels for triclosan.

Scientific data has shown that triclosan acts as an endocrine disruptor in lab animals. In humans, endocrine disruptors can increase the risk of developmental problems in fetuses and young children. Bishpenol A, known commonly as BPA, another endocrine disruptor found in some plastics, is banned in some states and has been voluntarily removed from shelves by some retailers. Triclosan’s use has increased over the past decade, especially as consumers seek to prevent the cold and flu. Additionally, a report by the US Geological Society found that between 1999 and 2000, triclosan was found in 60% of streams.

The FDA is not the only entity taking action. Representative Edward J. Markey is calling on the federal government to ban triclosan in products used to wash hands, prepare food, or products marketed to children. Additionally, he is filing legislation to speed up the process of evaluating and regulating potentially harmful products.

For more information on triclosan, see this Boston Globe article and the FDA’s website.

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