(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2012) The University of Texas (UT) Student Government body unanimously passed a resolution last month to ban soap containing the toxic antibacterial chemical triclosan throughout campus. If the ban is accepted by the University administration, UT would be the first university in the country to take an official stance against one of the most prevalent and dangerous antibacterial products available. Triclosan, which can be found in many personal care products, has been linked to numerous human and environmental health effects. Recently the Canadian government declared triclosan as an environmental toxin, proposing regulations to restrict its use.
Student Government (SG) representative and public affairs graduate student Robert Love, who initiated the ban, says that officials in several different campus purchasing departments are open to phasing out antibacterial soap. For financial and environmental reasons, the University phased out the use of the triclosan-containing soap in restrooms across campus in 2008; however, it is still being used in other places on campus. According to a university spokeswoman, a campus-wide phase out would require an official decision.
‚ÄúWhat we‚Äôre saying is we need an outright ban on campus, and we need to kind of make a bold statement,‚ÄĚ said urban studies senior and SG representative John Lawler in a statement to The Daily Texan. ‚ÄúIn a lot of places it‚Äôs not being banned; it‚Äôs not being considered a harmful chemical.‚ÄĚ‚ÄÉ
Triclosan‚Äôs efficacy has been called into as a result of numerous studies, despite the fact that triclosan is marketed as a germ-killing substance. To the contrary, there is evidence that the widespread use of antibacterial compounds promote the emergence of bacterial resistance, which may actually contribute to greater vulnerability to bacteria.
In a comment to The Statesman about the possibility of illness spreading on campus after antibacterial soap is phased out, Mr. Love said, “The science doesn’t support that. The science shows that antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap and water … outside of extreme conditions of disease.”
Public Radio International’s Living on Earth recently interviewed Beyond Pesticides research associate Nichelle Harriott about the toxicity of triclosan (download the show). Beyond Pesticides in 2004 began voicing concern about the dangers of triclosan and in 2009 and 2010 submitted petitions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which call for the removal of triclosan from consumer products. Since then, many major companies are quietly and quickly removing triclosan from their products. After opening the petition for public comment in 2011, over 10,000 individuals told EPA via email and docketed comments to ban triclosan. Additionally, scores of public health and advocacy groups, local state departments of health and the environment, as well as municipal and national wastewater treatment agencies, submitted comments requesting an end to triclosan in consumer products.
Take Action: Encourage your community go triclosan=free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution that establishes a commitment to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’Ban Triclosan page.
Sources: The Statesman and The Daily Texan
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.