The Food and Drug Administration took the bold step late last year of banning 19 chemicals in hand and body soap because of questions about their benefits and concerns about their impact on human health and the environment. What many consumers don't know is that these ingredients are still commonly used in other personal-care products.
On Tuesday, a group of 200 scientists and medical professionals called on the international community to further restrict the production and use of two chemicals — triclosan and triclocarban — citing “extensive peer-reviewed research” that shows potential harm from both.
In a statement published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, they said the chemicals, which have been around for decades, should only be used when there is an “evidence-based health benefit” going forward.
“Greater transparency is needed in product formulations, and before an antimicrobial is incorporated into a product, the long-term health and ecological impacts should be evaluated,” they said in a release.
Among their concerns is evidence that the two chemicals persist in the environment and can be toxic to aquatic life and other organisms. There's also the worry that they may be contributing to antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance that has created the terrifying world of “superbugs” in which we live today.
The group explained that triclosan and triclocarban are endocrine disruptors that may affect hormone cycles and development. The chemicals have also been linked to increased susceptibility to allergens.
The statement's authors noted that triclosan is already being voluntarily phased out of some personal-care products by Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. However, it is still used in household, building and other products.
The statement is the latest development in the debate about soaps, hand sanitizers and other items designed to address modern American families' fear of germs. Last June, the FDA raised questions about the safety and efficacy of hand sanitizers. Regulators asked manufacturers to provide scientific data for three active ingredients commonly included, ethanol or ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and benzalkonium chloride, but allowed the products to remain on store shelves.
The American Cleaning Institute and the Personal Care Products Council have said the scientific evidence shows their products are safe and effective and deny that they may be contributing to bacteria resistance. The trade groups have warned that bans or restrictions may lead to an increase in infection and disease.