Bloomberg News has published a wide-ranging overview of the use of triclosan in consumer products, the most recent concerns raised by scientists studying its purported endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic effects, as well as regulatory initiatives, including Minnesota’s recent ban on its use in most consumer retail products. Details about the state law and the 2013 launch of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety review of anti-bacterial ingredients including triclosan appear in Issue 25 of this Report.
According to the Bloomberg article, titled “Cancer-Linked Colgate Total Ingredient Suggests Flaws in FDA Review Process,” the summaries of toxicology studies that Colgate submitted to FDA in the 1990s to secure approval of the ingredient in its toothpaste came to light only when the agency released them in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and then posted them on its Website. Scientists asked to review the material reportedly question whether FDA’s approval should stand given more recent research allegedly showing adverse effects of triclosan on animals at low doses. And Bloomberg expresses concern that the approval process relies on “companybacked science to show products are safe and effective.”
Noting that a number of companies, including Avon Products Inc., have voluntarily reformulated products such as hand soaps to remove triclosan, the article reports that it is used in nearly 200 products, ranging from rugs to pet-food dispensers. It also reports that consumers have become increasingly wary of chemicals as advocacy organizations publish lists ranking the purported toxicity of various products. As to FDA’s review of triclosan, the article reports that the agency proposed issuing a monograph on the safety of antibacterial ingredients in 1974, but that they were grandfathered in existing substances with no safety testing under a 1976 law. “The FDA, four decades after its first promise, has yet to issue a ruling on whether triclosan is safe or effective in soaps,” the article states. The agency has apparently promised to deliver the monograph by 2016, but will not revisit its decision about use of triclosan in toothpaste unless it has “a good reason to do that.”
Meanwhile, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA ) has issued a Q&A article addressing “scare stories” on triclosan to assure consumers that it is safe for use in cosmetic and personal-care products. The article acknowledges a study finding traces of the chemical in the urine of pregnant women and in some umbilical cord blood, but notes that the study does not show the levels to be harmful or to cause adverse effects and, in fact, that the authors admit that triclosan is readily flushed from the body. The association also reports that Europe, which strictly regulates the safety of cosmetic products, has supported its use in toothpastes, hand and body soaps, shower gels, deodorants, face powders, blemish concealers, nail cleansers, and mouthwashes. See Bloomberg BNA Product Safety and Liability Reporter™, August 11, 2014; CTPA News Release, August 12, 2014.