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December 22, 2004 11:59 AM

SDA Responds to Activist Group's "False Alarm" on Key Antibacterial Ingredient

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 22, 2004 - An activist group's report attacking a major antibacterial ingredient used in some consumer products is nothing more than a "false alarm," according to The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

SDA, which represents manufacturers of cleaning products and their ingredients, was responding to a statement issued by the activist group Beyond Pesticides concerning use of the ingredient triclosan.

SDA rebutted the group's claims that triclosan promotes antibiotic resistance and poses other health risks.

"Triclosan has been safely and effectively used in hygiene products for nearly 40 years. The use of these beneficial hygiene products should not be discouraged based on reports that do little more than stir up hypothetical fears rather than describe real-life, present day scenarios. The activist group's report is little more than a false alarm that could unnecessarily scare consumers.

"In recent years, several national, regional, and inter-governmental agencies have reviewed the available data on antibiotic resistance. None have identified resistance associated with the use of antibacterial products or compounds as a concern under current conditions of use."

For example:

  • In June 2002, a European Commission Scientific Steering Committee completed a comprehensive and thorough scientific review and analysis of data on antibiotic resistance regarding triclosan. The panel reported that "There is no convincing evidence that triclosan poses a risk to humans or to the environment by inducing or transmitting antibacterial resistance under current conditions of use."
  • Research presented by University of Manchester (UK) scientists Peter Gilbert and Andrew McBain reported that "the risk of bacteria developing antibiotic resistance after exposure to the biocide triclosan may not be as great as previously believed. Indeed a number of field studies conducted of homes and clinics were unable to link antibacterial use patterns with changes in resistance." The research was presented the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in May 2004.
  • A scientific review written on the use of triclosan by noted researcher Denver Russell - published in the May 2004 Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy - stated that "comprehensive environmental surveys have not demonstrated any association between triclosan usage and antibiotic resistance."
  • Research from the September 2003 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology reported that the "emergence of antibiotic resistance through triclosan in the kitchen is highly improbable."
  • A study in the October 2003 Journal of Applied Microbiology "refutes widely publicized, yet unsupported, hypotheses that use of antibacterial products facilitates the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria from the home environment."

"In addition, no credible evidence has been presented to date that triclosan could be converted into a harmful dioxin in waterways nor that it would pose any risk for humans or the environment," SDA added.

"Beyond Pesticides' report references work conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, which in fact states that exposing triclosan in water to sunlight 'produces only a very mildly toxic chemical - perhaps 150,000 times less toxic than the types of dioxin considered the most dangerous.'

"Better understanding these important issues - through funding and participating in ongoing research and constructive dialogue with experts in the field - is part of SDA's and industry's commitment to the safe and effective use of cleaning products," concluded the Association's statement.

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.