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Report Raises Concerns About Bacterial Resistance to Triclosan

(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2010) Having already requested the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) to assess whether an association can be found between the use of triclosan in cosmetic products and the development of resistance by certain micro-organisms, the European Commission is launching a public consultation on the preliminary opinion, which found in March that, “ Low concentrations of triclosan can trigger the expression of resistance and cross-resistance mechanisms in bacteria in vitro….[which] warrants further investigation.”

The preliminary report from the SCCS, entitled “Preliminary opinion on triclosan (Antimicrobial Resistance),” was published in March 2010 and open to comment. The committee was asked to answer the question: “Does the SCCS consider a continued use of triclosan as a preservative in cosmetic products as safe taking into account the new provided documentation of resistance development by certain micro-organisms and cross-resistance?”

The SCCS also found that, “Some reported environmental concentrations in a number of geographically distinct areas are high enough to suggest that such triggering of bacterial resistance could also occur in the environment. This warrants further investigation.” However, it continues, “The applications of triclosan which contribute to those high environmental concentrations cannot be properly identified nor quantified at present.” As a result, the report concludes, “Based on the available scientific information, it is not possible to quantify the risk of development of antimicrobial resistance induced by triclosan applications, including its use in cosmetics….This should be taken into account when considering the current and future uses of triclosan in all applications so as to ensure that the demonstrable benefits for human health in certain applications are not compromised.”

This follows a 2006 European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) report which concluded that “[more] information is required on consumer exposure to triclosan from all sources, including cosmetic products.” This SCCP report found that “continued use of triclosan as a preservative at the current concentration limit of maximum 0.3% in all cosmetic products is not safe for the consumer because of the magnitude of the aggregate exposure.” A dossier was then provided by industry consisting of an update on the bacterial resistance issue for triclosan. Furthermore, the Norwegian authority on cosmetics submitted a report, “Risk assessment on the use of triclosan in cosmetics; Development of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria – II,” which concludes that, “[T]riclosan use may elevate the risk of increased antimicrobial resistance (co- and/or cross–resistance) in clinically important bacteria” and that triclosan use, “should be limited to situations for which scientific data are available demonstrating obvious health benefits.”

In response to Rep. Markey’s letter of concern, written to the agency earlier this year regarding triclosan, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that, “[E]xisting data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients,” and that “studies suggest that it is relatively easy for bacteria to develop altered susceptibilities to both antiseptics and antibiotics in the laboratory setting..….FDA continues to believe that the possibility that antiseptics contribute to changes in antibiotic susceptibility warrants further investigation.”

Triclosan products, such as hand sanitizers, soaps, cutting boards, toys and fabrics (see a list of triclosan products) leave behind residues which continually expose bacteria to low level concentration of the pesticide. Studies have shown that at these sublethal concentrations, triclosan inhibits a specific bacterial target, and several mechanisms of resistance to triclosan have been demonstrated. The implications are grave for public health as overuse or improper usage of antibacterials in the home can enhance the selection process for resistance to these antibacterial products and to antibiotics. As a result, Beyond Pesticides, Food and Water Watch and several other groups petitioned FDA in 2009 calling for the ban of triclosan citing the possibility of bacterial resistance to antibacterial substances and antibiotics, along with other human and environmental health concerns including endocrine disruption and water contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which shares regulatory jurisdiction over triclosan, has no plans to review triclosan till 2013. For more information of the human health implications surrounding triclosan use, read the factsheet, “Triclosan: What the Research Shows.”

Since the 2004 publication of “The Ubiquitous Triclosan,” Beyond Pesticides has been exposing the dangers of this toxic chemical. Now, along with Food and Water Watch and over 80 environmental and public health groups, Beyond Pesticides is leading a national grassroots movement calling for the ban of triclosan from consumer products. Beyond Pesticides is calling on manufacturers, retailers, school districts, local businesses and communities to wash their hands of triclosan and protect our nation’s waters and public health from this toxic pesticide. To learn more about this grassroots campaign and the join the movement, visit our triclosan homepage.

TAKE ACTION: Join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Avoid products containing triclosan, and encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

Source: European Commission Scientific Committee


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