Triclosan is a popular antibacterial chemical that has been on the market for more than 40 years and found in everything from soap to body washes, but recent studies raise concerns that it might be doing more harm than good.
Studies of triclosan in animals suggest that the chemical could increase the risk of infertility and early puberty and other hormone-related problems in humans.
Consumer advocates have questioned why the chemical is still being used after the FDA said it has no evidence soaps made with triclosan “provide any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”
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.
The agency’s review comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers, consumer advocates and others who are concerned about the safety of triclosan. Recent studies of triclosan in animals have led scientists to worry that it could increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems in humans.
“To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now,” said Allison Aiello, professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. “At this point, it’s just looking like a superfluous chemical.”
The concerns over triclosan offer a sobering glimpse at a little-known fact: Many chemicals used in everyday household products have never been formally approved by U.S. health regulators. That’s because many germ-killing chemicals were developed decades ago before there were laws requiring scientific review of cleaning ingredients.