Antibacterial Soaps Contain Endocrine-Disruptors Capable of Interfering with Hormones Critical for Normal Development and ReproductionSeptember 18th, 2010
The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit today against the Food and Drug Administration for failing to issue a final rule regulating the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, which are commonly found in antibacterial soaps. These chemicals are suspected endocrine disruptors linked to reproductive and developmental harm in laboratory studies. NRDC filed today’s lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The majority of consumer soaps claiming to be “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” contain the chemicals triclosan or triclocarban. FDA first proposed a rule that would have removed these chemicals from soaps in 1978. Until this rule is finalized, these chemicals can be widely used with no regulatory oversight — despite evidence that they are not effective and numerous studies associate them with serious health risks. The growing use of these chemicals in products has led to widespread residues in the environment and in people; recent bio-monitoring results found residues of triclosan in 75 percent of Americans over the age of six. The chemicals are absorbed through contact with the skin and tests have found them in human blood, urine and even breast milk.
Laboratory studies have shown that these chemicals are endocrine-disruptors capable of interfering with hormones critical for normal development and reproduction. Such hormonal interference has the potential to cause long-term health problems including poor sperm quality and infertility, and damage to the developing brain leading to poor learning and memory. Several studies suggest that triclosan and triclocarban also may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
In April, FDA acknowledged soaps containing triclosan offer no additional benefit over regular soap and water. FDA also expressed concern about the development of antibiotic resistance from using antibacterial products and about triclosan’s potential long-term health effects, but did not move ahead on the rule-making.
“Three decades of delay is outrageous,” said Avinash Kar, an attorney with NRDC. “FDA needs to issue a final rule on triclosan and triclocarban now, and that rule should ban both chemicals in hand soaps.”
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