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FAQ: Triclosan and Your Health

FDA Reviewing Antibacterial Chemical Widely Used in Soaps and Body Washes

From the WebMD Archives


Q: Why do critics want triclosan banned from consumer products?

"We want it removed because it is ineffective and poses a potential threat to human health and the environment," Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, tells WebMD.

In animal studies, triclosan has been found to interfere with hormones crucial for normal brain development and function and reproductive system development and function, Janssen says.

That interference could be serious, she says, leading to altered behavior, learning disabilities, and infertility.

The development of antibiotic resistance with continuous use of the products with triclosan is another concern, she says.

''The other big concern is, because of its widespread use in consumer products, we now have widespread contamination of the U.S. population with this chemical," Janssen says. ''Three-quarters of Americans are carrying traces of it in the blood."

She is referring to a study, published in 2007, in which researchers from the CDC found that three-quarters of more than 2,500 urine samples from U.S. children and adults had various concentrations of triclosan.

Q: What is the industry view of triclosan as an ingredient?

''We have seen absolutely no clear evidence that use of triclosan or any other antibacterial ingredient is leading to hormone problems in human beings," Sansoni says. "It's a great leap," he says, to go from animal study results to human study results.

Products with triclosan, he says, ''are widely available and are continually used safely and effectively by millions of people in hospitals, offices, homes, and day care settings."

''We think it's important for consumers to continue to have access," Sansoni says.

Q: Should you avoid products with triclosan?

For now, according to the FDA, there is not enough evidence to recommend avoiding the products. The FDA expects to release the findings of its review of the ingredient's safety in spring of 2011.

Q: If you want to avoid products with triclosan, how can you best do it?

Simply by reading the label. Triclosan will be listed in the ''drug facts'' label.

Sansoni says products with the ingredient are also likely to include other information elsewhere on the label, pointing out the antibacterial action.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on April 09, 2010



News release, FDA.

News release, Environmental Protection Agency.

Sarah Janssen, staff scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco.

Brian Sansoni, spokesman, Soap and Detergent Association, Washington, D.C.

News release, Rep. Edward Markey.

Calafat, A. Environmental Health Perspectives, published online Dec. 7, 2007.

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