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Environmental activists have sounded the alarm suggesting that consumers face serious health risks from the antibacterial chemical triclosan, which manufacturers have safely used in soap and other personal care products for decades. Unfortunately, green hype has led federal regulators to force companies to try to do the impossible—prove that their products pose no risk or remove them from the market. But nothing in life is risk free. Rather, the question is whether products provide more benefits than risks, which is clearly the case with the chemical triclosan.
On December 17, 2013, the U.S. food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposed rule to gather more information on the safety of triclosan. If at the end of the year companies cannot demonstrate safety, the FDA may regulate with bans and other restrictions on the product.
The rule notes: “[I]n light of more recent scientific developments and changes in the use patterns of these products we are now proposing that additional safety data are necessary to support the safety of antiseptic active ingredients for this use.” In reality, the agency pursued this action not because of “new” information, but because a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) forced it to complete its scientific review of triclosan, which has dragged on for decades.