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Web Date: April 2, 2012

Canada Urges Action On Triclosan

Environment: Government calls for voluntary removal of antibacterial chemical from consumer products
Department: Government & Policy
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: Antibacterial, Triclosan, Canada

The Canadian government is urging industry to voluntarily remove the antibacterial chemical triclosan from consumer products because of concerns about its toxicity to aquatic organisms. Although triclosan can still be sold and used in Canada in products such as antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, and deodorants, the government plans to work with companies over the next 18 months to get a better handle on usage patterns and to assess alternatives.

In a draft risk assessment published on March 31, the Canadian government reported that triclosan may be entering the environment in sufficient quantities to harm aquatic organisms, including algae, invertebrates, amphibians, and fish. Effects include “reduction in growth, reproduction, and survival,” as well as potential thyroid disturbances in amphibians, the government states. In contrast, Canadian officials found no evidence that triclosan presents a danger to human health.

The Canadian government left open the possibility of regulations in the future to control the release of triclosan into the environment. “Pending the results of voluntary action and the analysis of updated use pattern information, risk management measures to reduce releases of triclosan from products and/or industrial effluents may be proposed,” the assessment says.

In response to Canada’s action, U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, urging the agency to finalize a rule on over-the-counter antibacterial products first proposed in 1972. “FDA has for nearly 40 years failed to finalize its regulations regarding use of triclosan in consumer hand soaps and sanitizers, despite abundant questions about the human health risks and effectiveness of this chemical,” he wrote.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI), an industry trade group, pointed to triclosan’s decades-long record of safety and effectiveness in personal care and hand hygiene products. The group also highlighted the public health benefits of triclosan. “Antibacterial soaps and washes play a beneficial role in the daily hygiene routines of millions of people throughout the U.S. and worldwide,” said Richard Sedlak, ACI’s senior vice president of technical and international affairs.

Canada is expected to finalize its triclosan assessment and propose risk management steps in the fall of 2013.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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