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Lawsuit Seeks Timeline for FDA Action on Antibacterial Pesticide Triclosan

(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2010) Adding to a campaign that Beyond Pesticides launched in 2004 to alert the public and pressure government to restrict the highly toxic antibacterial chemical triclosan -commonly found in antibacterial soaps and household and consumer products, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit earlier this week against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to issue a final rule regulating the chemical. The lawsuit follows on the heels of two petitions filed by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch in 2009 and 2010 with FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), respectively, to ban the chemical. Because of the widespread poisoning and environmental contamination caused by triclosan, the petitions cite numerous violations of statutory duties under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.

The NRDC lawsuit adds yet another dimension to the legal violations involving agency malfeasance on triclosan by asking the court to impose a strict deadline for FDA to finalize a proposed rule that has been pending for 32 years and could ban many uses of triclosan and its chemical cousin triclocarban. Citing these chemicals as suspected endocrine disruptors and linked to reproductive and developmental harm in laboratory studies, the lawsuit was filed on July 27, 2010 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Triclosan is regulated by both the FDA and EPA; however, neither agency has moved to restrict triclosan despite the longstanding and continually emerging science that supports the limitation of the chemical’s use. In May, Beyond Pesticides along with several other groups submitted comments to the FDA in response to the agency’s request for environmental data regarding tricosan’s use in acne and antiplaque/antigingivitis over-the-counter drug products. Additionally, Beyond Pesticides, in partnership with Food and Water Watch and 78 other groups, have submitted petitions to both the FDA and EPA requiring that they end the use of all non-medically prescribed triclosan uses on the basis that those uses violate numerous federal statutes.

Echoing these petitions, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) also submitted letters of concern to both EPA and FDA. In FDA’s response, the agency acknowledged that soaps containing triclosan offer no additional benefit over regular soap and water. FDA stated that “existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients,” and announced plans to address the use of triclosan in cosmetics or other products. FDA also expressed concern about the development of antibiotic resistance from using antibacterial products and about triclosan’s potential long-term health effects. Despite these concerns, however, the agency did not actually move ahead on the rule-making.

Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which could potentially increase risk for breast cancer. Triclosan is also shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in, fish, umbilical cord blood and human milk.

Initially designed for hospitals and clinics, the majority of consumer soaps claiming to be “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” contain the chemicals triclosan or triclocarban. Antimicrobials are now a billion dollar business with more than 5,000 products available to consumers ranging from household cleaners to mattresses and bedding, cosmetics, toys, toothpaste, chopsticks, and even No. 2 pencils. These products are marketed to the health conscious despite no firm evidence of benefits and amid growing data of human health and environmental consequences.

The growing use of these chemicals in products has led to widespread residues in the environment and in people. Recent studies found that triclosan was present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with higher levels in people in their third decade of life and among people with the highest household income. Several studies also suggest that the widespread use of triclosan and triclocarban may also contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

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 support companies that are triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

Source: NRDC Press Release


One Response to “Lawsuit Seeks Timeline for FDA Action on Antibacterial Pesticide Triclosan”

  1. 1
    Gladys Says:

    Before I started my green lifestyle I did not know the dangers of chemicals like triclosan-I was shocked especially at the chemical content in cleaning supplies and personal care products-Shocking! No wonder I have to deal with cancer-Thanks for the great info continue the awareness movement

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