Dr. Oz is urging fans across the country to publicly dump soaps and toothpastes containing it; the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a lawsuit to hasten FDA regulation of it; Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has proposed to ban it; but there remains no scientific evidence that the antibacterial chemical triclosan is harmful to humans. As the FDA, spurred by the NRDC lawsuit, proceeds with its review of the chemical, public fears are being ignited by the usual chemophobic suspects.
Triclosan is the active ingredient in many antibacterial soaps and is added to some toothpastes to protect against gingivitis an FDA-approved claim. Although the chemical has been in use for over forty years initially as a surgical scrub in hospitals recent studies linking it to hormone disruption in lab animals have brought triclosan under scrutiny again.
Yet, as is so often the case, the studies inciting these fears rely on exposing lab animals to levels that neither they nor humans would ever come in contact with. As Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, pointed out, triclosan has been used for decades without incident in consumer products and hospitals.
ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees there is a lack of evidence that triclosan is harmful to anyone save for lab animals that have been exposed to many, many times the amount that any human ever would be. It s a benign antimicrobial substance, he says. While some have expressed skepticism about the antibacterial properties of triclosan, Dr. Ross points out, Regardless whether it s superior to soap and water in household use, there s no justification for calling it toxic.