The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has challenged the efficacy of widely used anti-bacterial soaps and body wash products and demanded adequate data to prove their claims. On Dec 16, 2013, the FDA proposed a rule which, if implemented, would mandate the companies manufacturing anti-bacterial soaps and like products to produce relevant data to establish the fact that these products are as effective in safeguarding consumers from infections much as they claim. Although, hospitals, health clinics, hand sanitizers, hand wipes have been kept out of this. Any such product which needs no water to work and contains more than 60% alcohol is out of this proposal.
What the scientists at FDA demand from manufacturers, is the proven efficacy of the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban which are actively used in antiseptic liquid soaps and bar soaps respectively and are known to have adverse health effects in the long run. The companies will be given a year’s time to collect and file the data before FDA. Public comments are invited as well. Because of consistent and persistent warnings, back in 1978, a similar ban was sought to be put by FDA but was never done stringently. For the same reason, the FDA was dragged to court in 2010 by the Natural Resources Defence Council, a not for profit environmental group. It is after the court’s ruling that FDA has sprung into action.
The Menace of Triclosan and Triclocarban: Composition wise, triclosan is a polychloro phenoxy phenol and triclocarban is trichlorocarbanilide, both being aromatic organic compounds. Various animal studies have been conducted to test effects of prolonged usage of these chemicals and the reports establish their hazardous effects on metabolism and reproductive systems of the animals. Also, the chemicals have been linked to dermal allergies, endocrine disruption, antibiotic resistance along with toxic effects to environment e.g. water contamination and imbalanced/disrupted aquatic ecosystems. Thyroid hormone is also feared to have been affected by prolonged existence of these compounds in the body. These chemicals have been existing in the markets since 1972 and their sustenance has been fed by people’s false perceptions that these chemicals miraculously protect their health. As a result, these chemicals have polluted people’s systems via an array of products of regular usage. Cosmetics, cleansing agents, clothes, kitchen wares, first-aid items, deodorants, stationery materials, toys and every commonest product one can think of contains triclosan and its variant triclocarban. Triclocarban, however, is known to have low skin absorption but its enhanced levels have shown increased hormonal (testosterone) levels in male rats.
Regulation of Triclosan: This anti-bacterial and anti-fungal chemical is regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the FDA (Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976), and the European Union. In view of the EPA, triclosan is an effective antimicrobial agent and reduces transfer of infection through hands when used regularly. EPA, headquartered in Washington D.C. is an agency of federal U.S. government which functions to safeguard human health and the surrounding environment. As a matter of fact, EPA has mandated the companies using these chemicals in manufacturing of soaps, detergents, mouthwashes, toothpastes, hand sanitizers, etc to list them on the label. Dismayingly, when they learnt about hostile effects of these two organic compounds they stealthily reformulated the products sans triclosan. Recently, Proctor and Gamble (in Sep 2013), Johnson and Johnson (in March 2013), and many other consumer goods giants have announced phasing out of this deadly chemical by the year 2014 from their products.
Scientists assure that plain soap (devoid of triclosan and triclocarban) and water provide the much needed hygiene for human body. What is not natural will definitely not support that which is utterly and uniquely natural. So, we must not victimize our bodies and also our surroundings ourselves by falling for over-hygiene claimed by such products. Consumer alertness also gains highlight in cases like these. To conclude, sufficient sleep, healthy diet and normal hygiene should keep the ordinarily caught infections out of your door steps.