Despite Opposing Evidence, Dial Complete Continues Triclosan Claims

Dial Corporation is facing several consumer class action lawsuits over its Dial Complete Antibacterial Hand Wash. These <"">Dial Complete lawsuits allege that marketing and advertising materials for the product overstated its effectiveness, especially in regards to Triclosan, its active ingredient. The lawsuits further allege that Dial Corporation has continued to make these claims, despite a growing body of scientific evidence that has called the effectiveness of household products made with Triclosan into question.

Triclosan was originally developed as a surgical scrub, but is now widely used in consumer products such as soap and body washes, toothpaste, clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys. Though companies that market Triclosan products claim they are safe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered it as a pesticide and has rated it high for human health risk and environmental risk.

Dial Corporation received patents to market antibacterial Triclosan products in August 2000 and March 2001. From the start, marketing materials claimed that Triclosan enabled Dial Complete to outperform other soap products. For example, one promotional video for Dial Complete that targets janitorial product suppliers claims the product has the “highest level of germ killing action,” “is the “#1 antibacterial foaming hand soap”, and its “patented activated Triclosan formula” allows it to be “25x more effective than other antibacterial soaps.”

The year prior, a study was published – “Genetic Evidence that InhA of Mycobacterium smegmatis is a Target for Triclosan” – that provided compelling evidence that some bacteria could develop a resistance to Triclosan. The study was appeared in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in March 1999.

In 2000, Stuart B. Levy, Director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University, presented a paper at the 2000 Emerging Infectious Diseases Conference in Atlanta, Georgia entitled “Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern”. According to Levy, antibacterial agents are not a cure-all but must be used for a designated purpose, “to protect vulnerable patients from infectious disease-causing organisms.” “Like antibiotics, these products can select resistant strains and, therefore, overuse in the home can be expected to propagate resistant microbial variants,” Levy wrote.

In 2003, the Lancet published a study entitled “Antibacterial Cleaning and Hygiene Products as An Emerging Risk factor for Antibiotic Resistance in the Community.” Among other things, the study assessed the potential role of antibacterial cleaning and hygiene products containing Triclosan in the Emergence of resistance. According to the study authors:

“Because antibacterial hygiene and cleaning products have been used in most households in the USA for several decades, they warrant examination as an additional possible risk factor. An important next step is to educate the consumer so that there is a clear understanding of the delineation between hygiene and cleaning products containing ingredients that may contribute to antibiotic resistance versus broad-spectrum hygiene and cleaning products that have not been linked to antibiotic resistance. With this information the consumer public can make an informed decision regarding the use of these products within the home.”

In 2004, a study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases – “Antibacterial Cleaning Products and Drug Resistance” – noted that there was no evidence to suggest that use of antibacterial soap containing 0.2% Triclosan provides a benefit over plain soap in reducing bacterial counts and rate of infectious symptoms in generally healthy persons in the household setting. The authors warned that “more extensive use of Triclosan might provide a suitable environment for emergence of antimicrobial drug–resistant species in the community setting.”

In 2007, another study published in Clinical Infectious Disease – “Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky” - called on government regulators to investigate Triclosan-containing consumer soaps because of data demonstrating their potential risk of “selecting for drug” resistance.

In 2008, Dial Corporation appeared to be oblivious to much of the scientific research regarding Triclosan. In March of that year, the company issued a press release discussing how Dial Complete was different from competitors’ products. The release cited a Dial-sponsored study that purported to show that “Dial Complete(R) Antibacterial Foaming Hand Soap’s patented antibacterial formula helps protect people from significantly more illness- causing germs than ordinary soap.” However, the release made no mention of the many studies that had called Triclosan products into questions.

The same year the Dial Complete press release appeared, another study – “Proteomic Analysis of Triclosan Resistance in Salmonella Enterica Serovar Typhimurium” – showed Salmonella bacteria could develop resistance to Triclosan.

In 2010, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release advising consumers that it was reviewing both the safety and effectiveness of products containing Triclosan. The agency said it had no evidence that Triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. It also pointed out that animal studies have animal shown that Triclosan alters hormone regulation.

In April 2011, the FDA sent warning letters to the makers of several other antibacterial soaps and lotions, stating that the claims they made in regards to MRSA, E. coli, Salmonella and other bacteria were unproven and, therefore, illegal. Advertising for one of those products, Safe4Hours Hand Sanitizing Lotion, made claims about Triclosan similar to those made about Dial Complete. In a warning letter to the maker of Safe4Hours, the FDA wrote that: “We are not aware of sufficient evidence demonstrating that this product is generally recognized as safe and effective as a topical antimicrobial that can prevent infection from E. coli, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus aureus; or prevent “Occupational Hand Disease;” or mitigate, prevent, treat or cure the H1N1 Flu Virus in people.”

Since September 2010, at least three consumer class action lawsuits have been filed against Dial Corporation over its Dial Complete claims. The lawsuits cite the growing body of evidence that refutes the company’s Triclosan representations. Yet Dial Corporation has continued to aggressively advertise Dial Complete as having substantial health benefits and being more effective in its use than ordinary soap and water.

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