FDA taking a closer look at Triclosan

Triclosan, one of the primary ingredients in consumer antibacterial soaps and many other products, was thought to be safe even if it might select for resistant bacteria. Recently, the FDA has updated its webpage to state that "animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation" and "other studies in bacteria raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics." And on the other side of the cost-benefit equation, the FDA now states "the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water." If you're interested in reading more on the lack of benefit of antibacterial products in the consumer setting I suggest Elaine Larson's wonderful study in the Annals or even this randomized trial in the Lancet comparing regular soap to antibacterial soap in Pakistan.

Just to emphasize how important the question of triclosan's safety is, it has been shown to persist in coastal waters for up to 40 years. Thus, we have a chemical agent, that was thought to be a non-specific and safe biocide, but has now been found in almost 50% of consumer soaps, select for resistant bacteria, potentially have hormone effects, persist in the environment and have little benefit to the consumer. The FDA will report back to us in Spring 2011.


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