A number of recent studies on triclosan, most of which were conducted on animals, have revealed that triclosan is an apparent endocrine disruptor. This means the chemical interferes with the body's normal production and regulation of hormones, which can lead to all sorts of health problems ranging from decreased fertility and impaired thyroid function to developmental disorders and mood alterations. Two different studies on rats, for instance, found that triclosan lowers testosterone and sperm production in males, and impairs estrogen and thyroid hormone production in females.
"To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now," says Allison Aiello, a professor at the University of Michigan (UM) School of Public Health. A 2007 UM review found that, based on independent data compiled from 30 different academic sources, triclosan is no more effective at preventing illness or reducing bacteria on hands than plain hand soap. "At this point, it's just looking like a superfluous chemical."
Tentative FDA guidelines from 1978 admit that triclosan is neither safe nor effective
The interesting thing about the whole triclosan issue is the fact that the FDA never actually approved the chemical for use in consumer products. In fact, a draft review compiled by the agency back in 1978 stated that triclosan was "not generally recognized as safe and effective." Though this draft was never finalized and approved, the FDA still technically recognizes the fact that triclosan is neither safe nor effective, at least as far as the science is concerned.
"I think the FDA is behind the curve," says Dr. Andrea Gore from the University of Texas at Austin, author of a study conducted by the Endocrine Society that exposed the hormone-disrupting properties of triclosan. "At what point do you draw a line and say we need to take this out of products that are being applied to our skin? What is enough evidence?"
The FDA has been dragging its feet for decades in reviewing triclosan, despite the onslaught of independent data that has emerged over the years demonstrating its dangers and uselessness. Even though it lacked the proper safety data to do so, the FDA did, in fact, approve the use of triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste back in 1997. But to this day, the agency has never shown that triclosan actually works as claimed, and its website even admits that the chemical still has not been shown to work in soap as an effective sanitizer.
"When FDA first started evaluating the rules governing triclosan's use, Richard Nixon was still president," Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is quoted as saying by Yahoo! News. It is only because of a lawsuit filed by the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that the FDA is even reviewing the chemical's safety now, though this review has already been delayed at least two times.
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