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SDA: Perspective Needed on Triclosan Study

WASHINGTON, DC – March 22, 2007 – Millions of people use antibacterial hygiene products safely and effectively every day.  This won’t change even with some alarmist headlines that have emerged based on research that does not reflect real-world use of products containing the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, according to The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

An immense amount of research goes into the development and manufacture of hygiene products and their ingredients.  Our industry welcomes additional research and, as a matter of course, actively and thoroughly reviews new studies as they are published.

Recently, researchers from Virginia Tech claimed in a study that use of soaps and hygiene products containing triclosan leads to what may be the formation of chloroform when the product comes into contact with chlorinated water.

SDA observes that the scientifically-controlled laboratory conditions used to simulate how triclosan comes into contact with chlorinated water do not reflect typical consumer use. 

  • For example, the study misrepresents how water and soap interact.  In a normal hand washing scenario, the total volume of water used is never in close and continuous contact with the total amount of soap used.  In the study, the amount of water and soap were held constant for one minute, rather than the 10-20 seconds people usually take to wash their hands.  The result is to significantly overstate the potential for chloroform production.
  • The investigators chose to illustrate a risk assessment that greatly exaggerated the levels of chloroform to which consumers would be exposed.  One way they did this was by considering only a portion of their test results.  Had they used the results that more closely approximated household tap water in the U.S, they would have reported inhalation exposure levels approximately 10 times lower than those stated in their risk assessment.

Additionally, a water quality expert interviewed by Environmental Science & Technology, the journal publicizing the Virginia Tech research, put the scenario into proper perspective.  Shane Snyder, research and development project manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told the journal that chlorine reacts with various forms of organic matter in municipal water to produce chloroform, and he expects the levels of chloroform from triclosan to be negligible.

Consumers can continue to use antibacterial soaps and hygiene products containing triclosan with confidence, according to SDA.  These products have been regulated by government agencies around the world for decades.  They play an important role in everyday hygiene practices by eliminating germs and targeting bacteria that can cause skin infections, food poisoning, intestinal illnesses and other commonly transmitted diseases.

You can view more detailed information on the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial products on ACI’s Antibacterial Information page, at www.cleaninginstitute.org/antibacterials.