Canada Calls for Triclosan Action | April 9, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 15 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 15 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: April 9, 2012

Canada Calls for Triclosan Action

Environment: Government seeks voluntary removal of antibacterial chemical from consumer products
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Sustainability
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 better understand 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.

According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), an industry trade group, triclosan has a decades-long record of safety and effectiveness in personal care and hand hygiene products, as well as significant public health benefits. “Antibacterial soaps and washes play a beneficial role in the daily hygiene routines of millions of people throughout the U.S. and worldwide,” says 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.

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Brian McMillen (April 9, 2012 11:37 AM)
I live in a rural setting and have a septic system. Soaps and bleach are bad enough, but anti-bacterials add to the misery of the bacteria in my septic tank just trying to do their job. I finally have my wife trained to read labels and avoid products with triclosan. But it is hard to find dish soap, liquid hand soap, etc. that do not have triclosan in them. If the container says "anti-bacterial" on the front, then it is obvious that the product does. If there is no such label on the front, you still have to read the back to make a determination. The bacteria on your skin and in your septic tank are actually good, yet we seemed obsessed with killing them.
Jim Svarz (April 9, 2012 1:56 PM)
From my experience, a good soap or detergent is all that is necessary to kill most bacteria on the skin or hard surface. True a antibacterial may be better but is it really needed, is a good soap washing sufficient especially at the cost to the environment. I think that the "antibacterial" should be the exception and not the norm. In order to reduce the environmental impact, the antibacterials should be heavily regulated and or heavily taxed..

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