The Food and Drug Administration will be taking a look at one of the main ingredients in antibacterial soap to see if it really works or is actually causing harm.
Triclosan, which is found in an estimated 75 percent of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the U.S., is being reviewed after being used for more than 40 years.
Mouthwash, toothpaste and toys all contain triclosan. If the FDA reaches a negative conclusion about the chemical, a $1 billion industry could be affected.
Recent animal studies of triclosan have led researchers to believe that the chemical could cause problems like infertility and the onset of early puberty in humans. Those findings have led consumer advocates and lawmakers to pressure the FDA into reviewing the chemical.
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"To me it looks like the risks outweigh any benefit associated with these products right now," said Allison Aiello, a professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. "At this point, it's just looking like a superfluous chemical."
Unsurprisingly, people who work for the soap and detergent industry are downplaying the concerns about triclosan.
“The fact is triclosan is safe … has an extensive track record; human health and environmental safety,” said Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute. “Triclosan is one of the most reviewed and researched ingredients used in consumer and health care products.”
According to the FDA's website, "the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water."
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At least a couple of average Americans feel that the agency’s review is long overdue, CBS News reported.
"As a regular consumer, I rely on the government to identify products that are safe for me to use," Mallory Smith said. "If something is brought to their attention, they should look into it and ban the chemical if necessary."
David Fisher, who sells restaurant equipment in Arizona, wasn’t surprised that it had taken the FDA this long to investigate. "It sounds like a typical government agency to me – totally unproductive.”