Some Americans are shocked that the FDA has taken so long. Mallory Smith is troubled to learn that the government has never confirmed the safety of anti-bacterial soap’s key ingredient.
Others are less surprised by the government’s multi-decade review. “It sounds like a typical government agency to me: totally unproductive,” said David Fisher, who sells restaurant equipment in Arizona.
Ironically, triclosan first became widely used because it was considered safer than an older antibacterial ingredient, hexachlorophene. That chemical was banned from household items in 1972 after FDA scientists discovered that toxic levels could be absorbed through the skin. Several infant deaths in France were connected to baby powder that contained unsafe levels of the chemical, due to a manufacturing error.
Triclosan was initially used in hospitals in the 1970s as a scrub for surgeons preparing to perform an operation. It was also used to coat the surfaces of catheters, stitches and other surgical instruments.
Beginning in the 1990s, triclosan began making its way into hundreds of anti-bacterial consumer goods, ranging from soap to socks to lunchboxes. The growth has in part been fueled by Americans who believe that anti-bacterial ingredients provide an added level of protection against germs.
As the use of triclosan has expanded, more scientists have questioned its effectiveness. In 2007, researchers at the University of Michigan and other universities compiled data from 30 studies looking at the use of antibacterial soaps. The results showed soaps with triclosan were no more effective at preventing illness or reducing bacteria on the hands than plain soap.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 next >>