Companies Respond to Markey Request to Remove Anti-Microbial Chemical Found in Consumer Products

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent letters to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting an update on agency action related to the safety and effectiveness of triclosan, a common chemical found in approximately 50% of all consumer soaps as well as a wide variety of other consumer products—including some marketed specifically for children. Although the FDA first began developing regulations for consumer soaps and hand sanitizers containing triclosan 35 years ago, it has yet to finalize these regulations.

Despite serious questions regarding the safety of these potentially dangerous products, these substances continue to exist in a regulatory black hole,” said Markey. “We must speed up the government’s efforts to evaluate and regulate chemicals that pose a public health concern and that continue to pollute our bodies. A baby born on the day the FDA began examining this issue would be 35 years old today. I’d like to see a final FDA rule before it turns 36.”

In his letter to the EPA, Rep. Markey writes: “I am requesting that you expedite your assessment of triclosan as a pesticide, and as necessary revise your regulations guiding the use of this chemical in consumer products, particularly those that are intended to come into contact with food or are marketed to children.”

In his letter to the FDA, Rep. Markey updates the agency on actions taken by several companies to eliminate or reduce the use of triclosan, information gained from letters the Congressman sent in April urging them to voluntarily stop using triclosan. Markey sent the letters one week after the FDA issued a consumer advisory about the use of the chemical, stating that “triclosan added to soaps and body washes provide no more health benefits than plain soap and water.”

I appreciate that several companies have shown good corporate citizenship by voluntarily removing triclosan from some of their consumer soaps, and products intended to come into contact with food,” said Rep. Markey. “But we must ensure that all companies that make these products don’t wash their hands of their responsibility to protect consumers simply because the EPA and FDA aren’t acting quickly enough.”

Recent studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have found that the concentration of triclosan has increased dramatically in the U.S. population, including children aged 6-11 where triclosan concentrations rose 55% in a two year period ending in 2006. Furthermore, both the EPA and FDA have acknowledged the potential for this chemical to interfere with the body’s thyroid hormone, which is important for brain development and function, particularly in children. Other thyroid disrupting chemicals have been associated with learning and behavioral problems. Moreover, scientific studies also point to the ability of this chemical to contribute to the development of antibacterial resistance, which is a looming public health crisis that could lead to infections that are not treatable using today’s medications.

Rep. Markey sent letters to thirteen companies that make products containing triclosan including: Rubbermaid; Colgate-Palmolive; Proctor and Gamble; Unilever; Henkel of America; Limited Brands; Reckitt Benckiser Inc; Meyer Corporation; Infantino; Highel; Acme United; and Victorinox. Of those 13 companies, twelve responded to the letters, and 4 of those responded with explanations of steps the companies are taking to address the presence of triclosan in their products.

Rep. Markey has already called on the federal government to ban the chemical in consumer soaps, products intended to come into contact with food, and products marketed to children.

Copies of the letters to the FDA and EPA

Responses from CEOs and additional information regarding this ongoing investigation can be found HERE .