New research on a chemical found in everyday consumer products ranging from soaps to toothpaste to toys raises “valid concerns” about its possible health effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.
The American position, outlined in newly-released correspondence to a congressman working to ban triclosan in personal care products, toys and clothes, comes as Health Canada continues its own evaluation of “emerging scientific data” to determine whether to take steps to minimize exposure for consumers.
The majority of liquid antibacterial soaps contain triclosan as an active ingredient to stop the growth of bacteria and to deodorize. It is also contained in toothpaste, facewash, deodorants and cosmetics. More recently, triclosan is also being added as a bacteria-killer to countertops, kitchenware, toys and clothes.
The FDA told Massachusetts congressman Edward Markey the agency shares his “concern” over the potential effects of triclosan in disrupting the body’s endocrine system, so the agency is taking another look at the chemical.
“It is the FDA’s opinion that existing data raise valid concerns about the effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients.”
In a statement Friday, Health Canada declined to say whether it agrees with the FDA’s statement, saying “recent scientific reports on the effects of triclosan on the body’s endocrine system and whether triclosan contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance are being considered as part of current assessment activity.”
Health Canada updated its rules in September 2009 to permit concentrations of triclosan up to 0.03 per cent in mouthwashes and 0.3 per cent in other cosmetic products. And new labelling rules came into effect for oral cosmetics to carry the statement, “The product is not to be used by children under the age of 12.” And in the case of mouthwashes, the labels should also carry a statement to the effect of “avoid swallowing.”
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence and co-author of the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects our Health, says the government needs to go further and ban the use of this registered pesticide from consumer products.
For the book, Smith and co-author Bruce Lourie detoxed by abstaining from everyday consumer products known to contain triclosan and chemicals, then loaded up on the common, brand-name products to measure the effect on their bodies.
Smith, who banished triclosan from his home years ago after reading studies identifying the antibacterial agent as a possible carcinogen and endocrine disrupter, saw the levels rise in his body by 2,900 times after using, over a two-day period, brand-name deodorant, toothpaste, anti-bacterial soap and shaving cream containing triclosan.
“In contrast with bisphenol A or phthalates, both chemicals that this government has already moved on, the added danger of triclosan is that it is deliberately added to products that people eat, that is very different and an added layer of danger than BPA. Nobody deliberately adds BPA to toothpaste.
“Triclosan is in a broader range of products and a variety of products that is increasing every day,” said Smith.
He said the government should put triclosan at the top of the list of chemicals to be reviewed in the next round of its Chemicals Management Plan.
Launched in 2006, Health Canada and Environment Canada will complete their assessments of the first batch of 200 “high-priority” chemicals later this year.
“The science of all these chemicals is now moving very quickly. The science that exists today on triclosan is much more worrisome than the science that existed in 2006, when the Chemicals Management Plan was announced,” said Smith.
Shannon Coombs, president of the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association, said Health Canada has determined the safe use of triclosan.
“Soaps containing triclosan are reviewed and approved by Health Canada before being able to be sold to Canadians. Triclosan is a well-researched and well studied ingredient and Canadians can be confident that the products they use containing triclosan are safe and effective.”
Mike Patton, a spokesman for the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, added, “As with many other ingredients, Health Canada regulates very closely how the personal care products industry uses triclosan in our products to ensure the safety of Canadians, and it can only be used in very specific ways and in very specific amounts by our industry.”
Patton also said his organization would welcome a further review.