A controversial preservative used in handwash and other consumer products is being considered for review by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), after it accepted there was “significant new information” about the chemical’s environmental effects.
The preservative, triclosan, is a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent used in a range of products from toothpaste to paint. The EPA says it’s also used to prevent bacteria and mildew growth in textile, leather and paper products.
Triclosan has been under scrutiny from regulators in the EU and North America following concerns about its potential to build up in the environment. An opinion by a European Chemicals Agency committee identified grounds for reviewing triclosan use based on its environmental toxicity.
“There is sufficient new information available about triclosan for it to be put forward for reassessment,” EPA acting general manager of hazardous substances and new organisms Ray McMillan says.
A study indicating wastewater at treatment plants in New Zealand contains triclosan at levels exceeding safety thresholds developed by Canada’s regulator is among the information before the authority. Research also detected triclosan in run-off from pasture treated with sewage sludge.
Consumer concerns about triclosan have already prompted manufacturers to start removing it from products.
This month, the US Food and Drug Administration ruled triclosan, along with 18 other antibacterial agents, will no longer be permitted in hand washes as manufacturers have failed to show the ingredients are safe for long-term daily use and any more effective than soap and water.