NRDC Sues FDA Over Failure to Ban Chemicals in Antibacterial Soap

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The National Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental group, has sued the US Food and Drug Administration, claiming the agency has failed to finalize a document that would regulate certain toxic chemicals found in antimicrobial or antibacterial soaps and other personal care products. The lawsuit asks the court to impose a strict deadline for the FDA to finalize the rule.

The lawsuit, which also names US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a defendant, was filed in US District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Triclosan or triclocarbon are present in 76% of 395 liquid soaps. These chemicals, which act as an antibacterial or antifungal, are thought to damage reproductive organs, sperm quality and the production of thyroid and sex hormones. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75% of the population over the age of 6 has detectable levels of triclosan residue in their bodies.

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According to the NRDC, the FDA first proposed a rule that would have removed triclosan and triclocarban from soaps in 1978. Although the group has met with FDA senior staff members twice in 2009, the agency did not provide a definitive time frame for finalizing its decision regarding the chemical ingredients.

In April 2010, the FDA admitted that triclosan is no more effective at preventing illness than regular soap and the agency has launched a new investigation with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the concerns raised about its potential harmful effects.

Responding to a letter from Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts in February, the FDA said it could not give a specific timeline, but said it was "working diligently" to publish the proposed rule. It also cited a lack of long-term data regarding potential health effects from exposure to the toxins.

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