Washington (December 16, 2013) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) released the following statement after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today issued a proposed rule to require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate that these products are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and FDA have acknowledged the potential for triclosan to interfere with the body’s thyroid hormone, which is important for brain development and function, particularly in children. Other studies have linked triclosan to disrupting other hormone functions important for fertility and puberty.

“For several decades, antimicrobial ingredients proliferated in consumer soaps and washes without ever having to prove their long-term safety or effectiveness. Chemicals like triclosan existed in a regulatory black hole, despite serious concerns about its impact on public health, especially that of developing children. I applaud the FDA for taking a step to restrict the use of this harmful and ineffective chemical that continues to pollute our bodies. And I applaud companies that are already taking action to remove these dangerous chemicals and protect their consumers. It is time to ban the use of triclosan in consumer soaps and hand-washes, products intended for use by children, and products intended to come into contact with food.” 

In light of mounting scientific evidence that has shown triclosan has the ability to damage the human endocrine system, in the House of Representatives, then-Rep. Markey wrote the FDA in 2010 and 2011 calling on the agency to finalize three decades-overdue regulations to curb the use of the chemical in consumer products. In 2010, Markey wrote to major manufacturers urging them to a voluntarily stop using the chemical, which are estimated to be in approximately 75% of all antibacterial consumer soaps as well as a wide variety of other consumer products, including some marketed specifically for children. In response to these letters, some companies, including Acme United and Reckitt Benckiser, announced that they were discontinuing the use of triclosan in certain consumer products, such as knives, scissors, pencil sharpeners, and face washes. These letters were sent 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.”