Lawsuit Seeks Final Rule on ‘Antibacterial’ Chemicals After 32-Year Delay

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Suzanne Struglinski, 202-289-2387
sstruglinski@nrdc.org

Lawsuit Seeks Final Rule on ‘Antibacterial’ Chemicals After 32-Year Delay

NRDC Wants a Deadline for FDA to Issue Long Overdue Public Health Protection

WASHINGTON - The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit today against
the Food and Drug Administration for failing to issue a final rule
regulating the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, which are commonly
found in antibacterial soaps. These chemicals are suspected endocrine
disruptors linked to reproductive and developmental harm in laboratory
studies. NRDC filed today's lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of New York.

"Washing your hands with so-called antibacterial soap
containing triclosan or triclocarban actually does nothing different
than using regular soap and water. Using soap containing these chemicals
does not provide an additional benefit as consumers might think, but
instead actually comes with potential health risks," said Jennifer Sass,
a senior scientist in the Health and Environment Program at NRDC. "The
FDA needs to prohibit these harmful chemicals from being put into
products in the first place."

The majority of consumer soaps claiming to be "antibacterial"
or "antimicrobial" contain the chemicals triclosan or triclocarban. FDA
first proposed a rule that would have removed these chemicals from
soaps in 1978. Until this rule is finalized, these chemicals can be
widely used with no regulatory oversight -- despite evidence that they
are not effective and numerous studies associate them with serious
health risks. The growing use of these chemicals in products has led to
widespread residues in the environment and in people; recent
bio-monitoring results found residues of triclosan in 75 percent of
Americans over the age of six. The chemicals are absorbed through
contact with the skin and tests have found them in human blood, urine
and even breast milk.

Laboratory studies have shown that these chemicals are
endocrine-disruptors capable of interfering with hormones critical for
normal development and reproduction. Such hormonal interference has the
potential to cause long-term health problems including poor sperm
quality and infertility, and damage to the developing brain leading to
poor learning and memory. Several studies suggest that triclosan and
triclocarban also may contribute to the development of antibiotic
resistant bacteria.

In April, FDA acknowledged soaps containing triclosan offer
no additional benefit over regular soap and water.  FDA also expressed
concern about the development of antibiotic resistance from using
antibacterial products and about triclosan's potential long-term health
effects, but did not move ahead on the rule-making.

"Three decades of delay is outrageous," said Avinash Kar, an
attorney with NRDC. "FDA needs to issue a final rule on triclosan and
triclocarban now, and that rule should ban both chemicals in hand
soaps."

Today's lawsuit asks the court to impose a strict deadline
for FDA to finalize the rule, which has been pending for 32 years. 
Under FDA's current proposal, the rule would ban the continued use of
triclosan and triclocarban in many antibacterial products.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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