Quick question—what’s probably sitting in your shower, your kitchen sink and even your sheets and may be extremely dangerous to your health? It's triclosan, a germ-killing ingredient found in about 75 % of soaps, detergents and body washes sold in this country.
Although the additive has been in use for over 40 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it’s finally planning to review triclosan’s safety this year, to determine whether it can continue to be used in household cleaners. The announcement comes after recent studies of triclosan have suggested it could increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems.
Allison Aiello, professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, says, "To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now. At this point, it's just looking like a superfluous chemical."
The review of triclosan’s safety highlights the fact that many common household chemicals may actually be dangerous to our health. In 1972, Congress passed a law requiring the FDA to set guidelines for antibacterial chemicals found in soaps and scrubs, explaining which chemicals can be used in which products, and in what quantity.
In 1978, a draft of guidelines released by the FDA said that triclosan was "not generally recognized as safe and effective;” the agency never finalized the guidelines, however, so companies haven’t had to remove triclosan from their products. In the meantime, the FDA went so far as to approve the use of triclosan in Colgate's Total toothpaste in 1997, despite its unproven safety.
Only now, under tremendous public pressure, is the FDA finally planning to complete its review of the chemical. That review is long overdue, according to experts—four years ago, the Endocrine Society noted that triclosan alters levels of thyroid hormones and reproductive hormones like testosterone and estrogen, yet the FDA made no move at that time to review the product’s use in this country.
Dr. Andrea Gore, lead author of the Endocrine Society's statement on hormone disrupting chemicals, said, "I think the FDA is behind the curve. At what point do you draw a line and say we need to take this out of products that are being applied to our skin? What is enough evidence?" Our product injury attorneys agree. We wonder when the FDA will finally stop bending to the will of big industry and put public safety first. We can only hope it will happen before too many people are irreversibly harmed.