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 FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson seeking information regarding the agencies’ plans to regulate two chemicals which are widely used in most anti-microbial hand soaps. Scientific studies have shown that these chemicals, which have been detected in U.S. waterways, can damage the human endocrine system, may increase antibiotic resistance, and may not be more effective than regular soaps in the first place.


Despite serious questions regarding the safety of these potentially dangerous products, these substances seem to exist in a regulatory black hole,” said Markey. “We must ensure that these products, which are widely used in soaps, toothpaste and other products, kill germs without adversely impacting human health.”

The chemical Triclosan was originally introduced as a surgical scrub in medical procedures, but the uses for both triclosan, and a related compound triclocarban, have substantially grown and are now incorporated in a number of consumer products including soaps, hand washes, toothpaste, shave gels, kitchenware, clothes, and toys. Scientific studies have suggested that these chemicals can interfere with the hormonal system and that use of ‘antibacterial’ soaps may be no more effective in protecting against illness than hand-washing with regular soap. Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate over whether the widespread use of anti-microbial soaps such as these could contribute to antibiotic resistance.

In his letter to the FDA, Chairman Markey specifically refers to the Agency’s plan to finalize its regulation of over the counter (OTC) topical antiseptic drug products, including soaps and hand sanitizers, a process which has been in progress for a startling 37 years. 

In his letter to EPA, Chairman Markey questioned whether the EPA planned to consider the substances for inclusion in the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program as well as for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Because of the prevalence of these compounds in our waterways and the potential for causing adverse health effects, I believe that triclosan and triclocarban, and any other similar compounds, really need a closer look,” said Markey.

In both letters, Chairman Markey raised a set of questions for each agency and asked for a response no later than January 26, 2010.

A copy of Markey’s letter to Hamburg can be found here:


A copy of Markey’s letter to Jackson can be found here: