FDA Steps Up on Triclosan (kinda?)
Triclosan – a dangerous additive in antibacterial products – may be getting stricter regulation from the FDA, but does the new rule go far enough?
The agency proposed a rule on December 15th that would require companies that use triclosan to prove that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan are more effective than plain soap and water and prove its safety. That is a huge step in the right direction, but is it enough to protect our health?
FDA is concerned that companies are using misleading advertising to make consumers feel like they’re protecting themselves from illness by using antibacterial soaps, but chances are they’re no more effective than plain old soap and water.
In fact, those misleading ads usually depict people with symptoms of a virus, like the flu. Triclosan and other antibacterials don’t do a thing to protect us from viruses.
Related Reading: The Dangers of Triclosan & How to Avoid It
Triclosan and Your Health
The main problem with triclosan from a public health standpoint is that it’s not actually that effective at killing germs. It kills off the weaker bacteria, leaving the stronger ones behind. That’s a perfect formula for breeding bacterial resistance.
Jill Ettinger reported on the propsed FDA rule at Organic Authority. She says, “Triclosan—the active ingredient in a number of antibacterial products—may be ineffective and pose health risks.” Among those health risks? Interference with hormones and impaired muscle function.
Triclosan is in a slough of personal care products, from antibacterial creams to toothpaste and deodorant, and it poses a huge public health risk. Just like overuse of antibiotics in factory farming, a big part of triclosan’s danger is in its ubiquity. The more we use antibacterials, the more likely we are to breed superbugs who are resistant to those products. Over time, that is incredibly dangerous. In fact, there’s evidence that antibacterial abuse could contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
While it’s definitely a step in the right direction, this rule would not have any effect on hand sanitizers or other triclosan-containing products like toothpaste and deodorant. An FDA spokesperson says that hand sanitizers are still a good option when you don’t have access to soap and water, and as far as I can see the rule doesn’t address its use in other personal care products at all.
Companies have until December of 2014 to prove that the triclosan in their products is safe, and they plan to finalize the rule by September of 2016. Hopefully, this is just a first step in stricter regulations for triclosan.
In the meantime, it’s still up to us as consumers to educate ourselves about what products contain triclosan and look for alternatives that don’t contain this dangerous chemical.