Triclosan Comes Under Pressure

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | August 29, 2011

Just as one issue gets resolved, another emerges. Less than two months after the US Food and Drug Administration issued testing and labeling requirements for sunscreens (see p. 50 in this issue), an Aug. 19 article in The New York Times reported that a battle is brewing over triclosan, an active ingredient found in personal care products such as antibacterial soap, underarm antiperspirants and toothpaste. In fact, a Centers for Disease Control Prevention survey found the chemical present in the urine of 75% of Americans over the age of 5. A couple of months ago, FDA announced that it would not issue a report on the safety of triclosan until at least 2012.

Last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit to force FDA to complete its safety study, which is primarily focused on the use of triclosan in hand soaps, but it could trickle down to include other products. FDA has already determined that triclosan provides a benefit in Colgate Total by fighting gingivitis.

For its part, the industry is vigorously defending triclosan. The American Cleaning Institute’s VP of communication and membership Brian Sansoni told The Times the evidence against triclosan was hardly convincing and that the chemical had been used safely in consumer products and in hospitals for decades. He said there was no evidence that triclosan caused antibiotic resistance. Meanwhile, Henkel, the manufacturer of Dial Complete, stands by triclosan, noting that it has been used in products safely for years.

Despite these votes of confidence, industry executives must realize that the issue won’t go away. After all, when the safety of parabens was questioned a few years ago, it caused reformulation headaches throughout the industry (even though many companies quietly went back to parabens when they couldn’t find a suitable replacement). Years before that controversy, protesters called for an end to animal testing. It may be time to hunker down and build a solid, industry-wide defense for triclosan, which is a key ingredient in antimicrobial and antibacterial hand soaps, which represent 50% of the $750 million market for liquid hand soaps in the US, according to Kline & Company.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Happi. As always we welcome your comments and suggestions.



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