Triclosan under the spotlight again

C&I Issue 8, 2010

The antibacterial triclosan is the latest chemical to come under attack in the US as a result of renewed concerns about the hazard it poses in products, including soaps and body washes, toothpastes and some cosmetics. Edward Markey, chairman of the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce subcommittee, has written to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting information about the status of its ongoing review of the chemical in consumer products.

Representative Markey has also written to 13 major manufacturers, including Rubbermaid, Colgate- Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Henkel and Reckitt Benckiser, urging them to stop using triclosan. ‘I’m calling on the companies that use this chemical to voluntarily remove it from products marketed specially for children, consumer soaps and products that will come into contact with food,’ he said.

The FDA has responded that in the light of animal studies raising questions about its safety, its scientific review of triclosan will continue to ensure the most up-to-date data and information is incorporated into the consumer product regulations. The FDA says that for some consumer products, there is clear evidence that triclosan provides a benefit, but for others there is none. It says that there is no evidence that triclosan in soaps and body washes provides any benefit over regular soap and water.

The US Soap and Detergent Association has expressed concern about the issue and the latter comment, responding that it will continue to provide ‘an informed perspective’ to the FDA, saying that ‘the FDA has in its hands a wealth of scientific data showing a distinct germ killing benefit of antibacterial soaps containing triclosan’.

The use of triclosan in toothpaste has received a boost from US research comparing its use with a copolymer against just fluoride for the control of bacteria in the mouth (General Dentistry, 2010, 58, 1). ‘Repetitive testing shows that toothpaste with triclosan/copolymer outperformed the fluoride-only toothpastes when it came to inhibiting the growth of bacteria,’ said Joseph Zambon, teaching professor at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine and one of the study’s co-authors. ‘Triclosan added to toothpaste has been shown in a number of clinical studies to inhibit plaque and gingivitis. The copolymer helps to keep triclosan in your mouth for a longer period of time, which boosts its ability to inhibit oral bacteria.’

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