This is reassuring: the FDA says that, sometime this year, they'll finally get around to properly investigating triclosan, the germ-killing ingredient used in anti-bacterial soaps, mouthwash, toothpaste and toys. But how long has this potentially-harmful chemical been on the market? Only 40 plus years.
The FDA's investigation, which it hopes to complete this year, was spurred by pressure from lawmakers and consumer advocates after several animal tests showed various negative effects of triclosan. One 2009 study showed the chemical lowered testosterone and sperm levels in male rats and triggered early puberty in female rats, and a 2012 study found the chemical might restrict muscle contractions in fish and mice, which in humans could lead to weak heart and skeletal muscles.
"To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now," said Allison Aiello, professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.
Of course, the American Cleaning Institute denies that the chemical causes any harm.
"Triclosan is one of the most reviewed and researched ingredients used in consumer and health care products," says Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the group, whose members include Colgate-Palmolive and Henkel Consumer Goods Inc., maker of Dial soap.
Among those who think Sansoni and his group are full of shit are 37 Kasier Permanente hospitals, who removed products containing triclosan in 2010, and Johnson and Johnson, who have pledged to remove the chemical from all its products by 2015.
The FDA first published drafts noting the chemical was "not generally recognized as safe and effective” in 1978. But they never finalized their results, so companies that had been using the chemical since 1973 were never forced to remove it from their products.
As it stands now, the FDA's website states that "the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water."
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