Triclosan Ban Petition Filed With EPA

Announcing a 60-day public comment period, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just published in the Federal Register a petition filed by 82 public health and environmental groups, led by Beyond Pesticides and Food and Water Watch, to ban the controversial antimicrobial/antibacterial pesticide <"">triclosan. Triclosan is found in products from clothing to soaps, for non-medical use.

The Federal Register notice (Petition for a Ban on Triclosan, 75 FR 76461, December 8, 2010) invites the public to comment until February 7, 2011, on the need to ban triclosan under numerous federal statutes.

The petition, filed on January 14, 2010, identifies pervasive and widespread use of triclosan and a failure of EPA to:

• Address the impacts posed by triclosan’s degradation products on human health and the environment,

• Conduct separate assessment for triclosan residues in contaminated drinking water and food, and

• Evaluate concerns related to antibacterial resistance and endocrine disruption.

The petition cites violations of numerous environmental statutes, including laws on pesticide registration, the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The petition also documents that triclosan is no more effective than regular soap and water in removing germs and, therefore, creates an unnecessary hazardous exposure for people and the environment.

Regulated by both EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), triclosan is commonly found in clothing, toys, kitchen utensils and cutting boards, hair brushes, computer keyboards, countertops, plastics, facial tissues, hand soaps, cosmetics, toothpastes, deodorants, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, antiseptics, and medical devices. The petition to EPA seeks expedited action to ban household triclosan, challenging serious deficiencies in EPA’s September 2008 re-registration of triclosan and its failure to comply with safety laws.

Research indicates that widespread use of triclosan causes a number of serious health and environmental problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds in its 2009 report, National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, and 2010 update, that triclosan is in the bodies of 75 percent of the U.S. population and its levels are increasing.

A critical health concern is triclosan’s association with bacterial resistance to antibiotic medications and cleansers, a special problem for vulnerable populations such as infants, patients, and the elderly. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones, which potentially increases cancer risks. Recent studies show triclosan’s adverse effects on fetal growth and development.

Further, the pesticide accumulates in biosolids, is taken up by food crops, and breaks down to different forms of dioxin, thereby exposing consumers to even more dangerous chemicals.

“We’re calling on the public to urge EPA to consider the full extent of triclosan’s impact on people’s health and the environment and ban its non-medical uses,” said Jay Feldman executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

We recently wrote that an emerging study suggests that young people overexposed to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may be at increased allergy risks. We have also long written about the issue with triclosan and bacterial resistance; recently, the European Union’s (EU) Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety issued a warning that triclosan could add to bacterial resistance and called for more studies. In the U.S., FDA has expressed concern about bacterial resistance and data pointing to triclosan’s hormone disrupting properties.

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