Archive for the ‘FDA’ Category

Are You Still Using Antibacterial Products on Your Kids?

Monday, December 27th, 2010


Still Killing Germs With Toxic Chemicals?

Are you still using triclosan to protect your kids from germs? A few months ago we wrote a couple of blogs about the dangers of triclosan, the antibacterial chemical used in soaps, cleansers, toothpastes and a variety of other products. Parents are using these antibacterial products on their kids every day, thinking they’re doing the best thing by trying to keep their kids germ-free. But, triclosan is not the way to do it: studies have pretty much proven it’s toxic. Finally, after decades of delay, the FDA is taking action which will probably lead to a ban on triclosan – but will it be fast enough to protect our children from this dangerous chemical? And, if not, what are our alternatives?


If you’d like to read more about triclosan, check out the earlier blogs. The first, Germs or Toxic Chemicals – Do We Really Have to Make that Choice?, is about the studies on triclosan and a lawsuit filed on the FDA’s decades-long delay in rendering a final ruling on its safety. The second, Are Antibacterial Socks, Shoes and Underwear Safe for Your Kids?, revealed the fact that this dangerous chemical is even used in socks, shoes, underwear and other clothing articles that our kids may be wearing right now!

Some public officials are up in arms about nothing being done about triclosan. Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, for example, has been very active in trying to get triclosan off the shelves. His office even contacted more than a dozen companies to get them to voluntarily remove it from their products. A few said they will get rid of the chemical in the near future, but most refused, saying that they are waiting for the FDA review.

Rep. Markey sent a letter to the FDA last week asking for an update. It looks like the FDA is finally going to take action but, unfortunately, that action will probably consist of simply requesting additional information, said FDA spokesperson Karen Riley.

How long will it take for a final ruling? Who knows? It’s taken decades so far.

Eventually, though, triclosan will be banned. There’s no way around it. The evidence against it is too strong.

But as parents, we really need to do something to protect our families now. We can’t wait while industry or government agencies drag their feet. So much damage has been created by chemicals we had assumed were safe; it’s now time to recognize that the only really safe way to go is to assume chemicals guilty until proven innocent.

With that premise as a basis for decision-making, we can be assured we are doing the best to protect ourselves and our children from future disaster.

In the meantime, here is some very good news: You can safely get rid of all the triclosan-containing products in your house without worrying about your kids coming into contact with too many germs: the FDA concluded and announced that triclosan doesn’t get rid of any more germs than good, old-fashioned soap and water!

How do you know if a product contains triclosan? If the label says “antibacterial,” “antimicrobial” or “odor-free,” chances are it contains triclosan. Check the ingredients list and, if it still isn’t clear to you, call the manufacturer. Also, you should know that triclosan is sometimes called microban or irgasan. So, watch for those, too.

Triclosan is actually used in about 140 personal care and household products. For a handy guide on the types of products that might contain triclosan, check out the Environmental Working Group’s home map. It’s easy – just mousing over the house shows you exactly where to look!

Are Antibacterial Socks, Shoes and Underwear Safe for Your Kids?

Monday, October 18th, 2010


It is understandable that parents would want to keep their kids away from fungus, germs, and other bacteria. Consequently, it’s no surprise that we can now buy such things as anti-bacterial socks, shoes and underwear for our kids. But are these products safe? In fact, some of the antibacterial materials used in these products are under investigation by the FDA and EPA.

There are many natural ways to remove or inhibit the growth of fungus and bacteria – baking soda, certain essential oils, and so on. But many of the products contain something called Microban®, of which one of the ingredients is triclosan.

We wrote about Triclosan in a blog not too long ago – see Germs or Toxic Chemicals – Do We Really Have to Make that Choice? – but, at the time, didn’t realize that triclosan was also in Microban.

The FDA approved triclosan for use – but that was 30 years ago. Since that time, studies have linked triclosan to cancer, hormonal disruption, including thyroid conditions, liver problems, allergies, and more.

Triclosan – largely known as an ingredient in cosmetics, soaps, body washes and other personal care products – is now on the EPA’s Chemicals of Concern list and under investigation. How long it will be legal is up in the air. Rumor has it the results of the investigation were supposed to be available this fall but, so far, they haven’t been released.

We can assume that if triclosan is banned, Microban might be on the way out, too.

Read more about Microban and triclosan in Is the Chemical Triclosan in Your Socks?

Parents, in the meantime, would be wise to stay away from Microban products until the jury has returned its verdict.

Of course, there is no shortage of socks, shoes, underwear, and so on that pose no risk whatsoever! They don’t contain these potentially dangerous chemicals. Generally, these are natural cotton, wool, silk and other natural materials. However, there are some products that may say ‘naturally antimicrobial’ on the label because they fight germs with natural substances inherent it the materials. If there is any question about what chemicals or substances are used, contact the manufacturer.

New Pesticide Marketing Campaign May Be Confusing. What Should You Believe?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010


In the not too distant future you may see advertisements, information hand-outs, signs in the produce areas of grocery stores, you might even hear radio advertising, all promoting the idea that the pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables really aren’t harmful. If you’re concerned about pesticides – which would make you part of a whopping 90% majority of the U.S. population – you might wonder if other information you’ve received on the dangers of pesticides is actually true. Well, here’s the story behind the ads.

Recently, the Federal government approved $180,000 for the Alliance for Food and Farming to “help with a public education campaign to correct misconceptions that some produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues.” The ‘produce items’ being referenced are those on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List – the top 12 on a list showing the pesticide residue on about 50 fruits and vegetables.

EWG suggests we buy organically-grown Dirty Dozens so we can avoid the pesticides. The Alliance group, on the other hand, says there is no evidence of a health risk.

The EWG information is based on analysis of 89,000 tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The tests were on fruits and vegetables that had already been washed and/or peeled – basically, in the same conditions under which they would normally be eaten.

So, there is no doubt that the pesticide residues are there.

Why does the Alliance say there is no health risk? One of the Alliance associates said the EPA rules protect us. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a rigorous, health-protective process for evaluating the potential risks of pesticides on food. This process includes considerations for fetuses, infants and children as well as adults.”

But, the EPA doesn’t have the same faith in their ability to protect us – as is clear from a speech given by EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, in her address to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco:

“A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than a child from any other generation in our history. A 2005 study found 287 different chemicals in the cord blood of 10 newborn babies – chemicals from pesticides, fast food packaging, coal and gasoline emissions, and trash incineration. They were found in children in their most vulnerable stage. Our kids are getting steady infusions of industrial chemicals before we even give them solid food. Now, some chemicals may be risk-free at the levels we are seeing. I repeat: some chemical may be risk-free. But as more and more chemicals are found in our bodies and the environment, the public is understandably anxious and confused. Many are turning to government for assurance that chemicals have been assessed using the best available science, and that unacceptable risks haven’t been ignored.

”Right now, we are failing to get this job done. Our oversight of the 21st century chemical industry is based on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. It was an important step forward at the time – part of a number of environmental wins from the 1970s, like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, not to mention the formation of the EPA. But over the years, not only has TSCA fallen behind the industry it’s supposed to regulate – it’s been proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects.”

Add to that the revelations and recommendations made in the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel Report, entitled Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now:

“Many known or suspected carcinogens first identified through studies of industrial and agricultural occupational exposures have since found their way into soil, air, water and numerous consumer products…Some of these chemicals have been found in maternal blood, placental tissue, and breast milk samples from pregnant women and mothers who recently gave birth. Thus, chemical contaminants are being passed on to the next generation, both prenatally and during breastfeeding.”

“Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers…Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications.”

It’s pretty clear from the EPA and President’s Cancer Panel statements that the pesticide concerns of 90% of the U.S. population are well-founded.

I hope this information helps you in the decision making process if the marketing campaign that $180,000 is supposed to pay for ever does become a reality.