FDA Yanks OTC Triclosan Soaps
Early in September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, announced that it was pulling all soaps containing Triclosan from the marketplace.
On or before September 6, 2017, manufacturers must remove triclosan and 19 other ingredients added to soaps and other products to market them as “antibacterial”. The rule applies to all soaps sold in drugstores, grocery stores, big box stores and other retail locations, as well as sales conducted over the Internet.
The rule doesn’t apply to waterless hand sanitizers or antibacterial wipes, to products listed as “first aid antiseptics”, or to any antibacterial products used in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other health care settings– a puzzling lapse that flies in the face of evidence that the products do not perform as directed and may even encourage health care workers to believe that they are being as careful as they need to be, when in fact they aren’t.
Several other ingredients (benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol, or PCMX) can continue to be used until September of 2018, at which time manufacturers must either remove them or provide proof of their safety and effectiveness. Those interested in pursuing the ban further can read the FDA’s news release.
The Banned Ingredients
- Iodophors, which are iodine-containing ingredients
- Iodine complex, which is ammonium ether sulfate and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate
- Iodine complex of phosphate ester of alkylaryloxy polyethylene glycol
- Nonylphenoxypoly, or ethyleneoxy, ethanoliodine
- Poloxamer, an iodine complex of Povidone-iodine 5 percent to 10 percent
- Undecoylium chloride iodine complex
- Methylbenzethonium chloride
- Phenol greater than 1.5 percent
- Phenol less than 1.5 percent
- Secondary amyltricresols
- Sodium oxychlorosene
- Triclosan, and
- Triple dye
Environmentally responsible consumers can do their part by reading labels and buying only those soaps that don’t contain any of the chemicals on the list.
In making its ruling, the FDA admitted that none of the triclosan-like ingredients actually prevented bacterial infections, or their transmission from one person to another, any better than soaps made without such ingredients.
It also noted that these antibacterial ingredients, so highly touted by soap manufacturers in the past, have not been proven safe for extended daily use, either to humans or to the environment.
In fact, according to the FDA’s Janet Woodcock, a physician/researcher and acting head of the Drug Evaluation and Research Division, the ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.
Where Triclosans Can Be Found
Expect to buy antibacterial agents in deodorants and antiperspirants, in hand cleaners and sanitizers, in laundry detergent, in facial tissues, and in topical antiseptics for wounds and bites. It is also used as a preservative and anti-fungal agent in things like garbage bags, toys, towels, sheets, mattresses, socks, undergarments, outerwear, furniture, fabrics and even paint. In fact, after almost two decades of use, it may be difficult to find products that don’t have one of the 19 banned ingredients.
The Environmental Legacy
Triclosan and its extended family of chemicals are known to exist in potentially hazardous quantities in surface and subsurface aquifers, leaching into the drinking water supplies of millions of Americans and uncounted numbers of wildlife species.
Triclosan effluents are also found in surprising and disturbing amounts in the waste left over after sewage is treated, because conventional wastewater treatment methods can’t completely remove them. This residue then returns to aquifers, to expand and extend its toxic legacy.
In fact, triclosans are now as ubiquitous as dust, but infinitely more dangerous. After more than 40 years, they now appear in the urine of three-quarters of those living in developed nations. Triclosans are endocrine disruptors, and persist in the environment, resisting the degradation by water, air, sunlight and time that some other chemicals ultimately succumb to.
The danger is real. A 2015 study actually suggests that triclosan and its family of chemicals should be put on a “priority list of emerging contaminants”. A case in point is the discovery that triclosan used in dental products may have created an emerging form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria similar to MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which has already become a huge concern worldwide.
Worst of all, triclosans react with the environment to form dioxins, which are toxic to everything from humans to bacteria. Triclosans alter the ability of the thyroid, or endocrine system, to control growth, body weight, energy levels, heart and lung function, brain activity, muscles, and even organs like the liver and kidneys.
Inhaling triclosans can cause severe inflammation which blocks airways and results in respiratory failure. The effects can be immediate, or lie dormant for up to 24 hours, so spotting triclosan-induced respiratory distress is difficult.
Ingesting triclosans can block albumin production. Albumin, the primary protein in blood plasma, regulates the absorption and use of calcium, sodium, potassium, fatty acids, and hormones.
Triclosans cause irreversible neurological and reproductive abnormalities. The most notable examples are among amphibians, where – as far back as 1996 – Minnesota researchers began noticing frogs with a singled eye; missing, deformed, or extra limbs; and tails that never got absorbed back into the body as they normally would.
If something is this dangerous to frogs, imagine what it might do to our children, and their children, over the next 50 years! The trouble with human developmental deficits is that humans, unlike most animals, take a long time to mature and reproduce, effectively masking the toxic effects of chemicals for 30 years or more.
Buy responsibly. Choose organic, non-toxic, sustainable products, and use them as directed. Earth will thank you.
This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety, Politically Green and was tagged with antibacterial, bacteria, bio-based cleaners, deformed frogs, dioxins, ecofriendly, endocrine disruptors, environmental products, FDA, HEALTH SENSITIVE, neurological, NON-TOXIC, personal care products, reproductive, Triclosan, U.S. Food and Drug Administration