The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in 2010 against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to issue a final rule regulating the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, which are commonly found in antibacterial soaps.Â As the release stated accompanying the suit, â€śWashing your hands with so-called antibacterial soap containing triclosan or triclocarban actually does nothing different than using regular soap and water. Using soap containing these chemicals does not provide an additional benefit as consumers might think, but instead actually comes with potential health risks,â€ť said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist in the Health and Environment Program at NRDC. â€śThe FDA needs to prohibit these harmful chemicals from being put into products in the first place.â€ť
The FDA first proposed a rule that would have removed these chemicals from soaps in 1978. However, until this rule is finalized, these chemicals can be used with no regulatory oversight even though there is evidence that the chemicals are ineffective and numerous studies associate them with serious health risks. The escalating use of these chemicals has led to widespread residues in the environment and in people.Â As the NRDC notes, â€śrecent bio-monitoring results found residues of triclosan in 75 percent of Americans over the age of six. The chemicals are absorbed through contact with the skin and tests have found them in human blood, urine and even breast milk.â€ťÂ As to the harmful side effects, the NRDC notes that â€ś[l]aboratory studies have shown that these chemicals are endocrine-disruptors capable of interfering with hormones critical for normal development and reproduction. Such hormonal interference has the potential to cause long-term health problems including poor sperm quality and infertility, and damage to the developing brain leading to poor learning and memory. Several studies suggest that triclosan and triclocarban also may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.â€ť
In April 2010, the FDA acknowledged that soaps containing triclosan offer no additional benefit over regular soap and water.Â It also expressed concern about the development of antibiotic resistance from using antibacterial products and about triclosanâ€™s potential long-term health effects.Â Despite this concern and acknowledgement, the FDA did not advance and finalize its rule-making.Â The NRDC filed suit in July 2010 but Judge Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, dismissed the suit for lack of standing.Â On May 14, 2012, the NRDC took its fight to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals where it asked the appellate court to reopen its case against the FDA.