07/27/2010 04:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NRDC Sues FDA for 30 Year Delay in Regulating Antimicrobials

Visit NRDCs Switchboard BlogToday NRDC sued the FDA, again, this time because the Agency has yet to finalize a document 32 years in the making that would regulate the use of antimicrobial chemicals in hand soaps and body washes. Today’s lawsuit asks the court to impose a strict deadline for FDA to finalize the rule

The FDA first proposed a rule that would have removed triclosan and triclocarban 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 which raise concern about human health risks. We are particularly concerned about these two chemicals because they are widely used in liquid hand soaps, bar soaps, body washes and other skin cleansers. They are marketed as reducing the growth of harmful bacteria or preventing odors though there is no proven benefit to their use.

In April, FDA admitted that triclosan is no more effective at preventing illness than regular soap and water and that they are concerned about their potential harmful effects, including hormone disruption and the promotion of drug-resistant bacteria. Though under the FDA’s current proposal, the continued use of triclosan and triclocarban in many antibacterial products would be banned, FDA went on to say that they need another year just to review the data, before they can even start to decide what to do next.

This is just more delay from an agency that has a hard time keeping up with current science and isn’t doing their job of protecting the public’s health.  If FDA doesn’t have any evidence that anti-bacterials like triclosan and triclocarban are effective and they are concerned about potential harmful effects, why wouldn’t they just finalize the document they started in 1978 which already concluded this? 

This is a real missed opportunity to protect public health. Seventy-five percent of Americans carry residues of triclosan in their bodies, so we know their widespread use is resulting in contamination of not just the environment, but also people. We also have data from laboratory animal studies that these chemicals interfere with hormones important for development and reproduction.

The good news is that there are some things you can do on your own to try to limit your exposure to these chemicals. But unfortunately, voluntary action won’t be enough to eliminate our exposure.  That’s why we’ve gone to court to try to force the FDA to act. In the meantime, you can read our fact sheet and other educational materials for more information.