Mar-17: PUBLIC INTEREST
Why are antibacterials harmful in US and not in India?
If you pick up anything labelled â€œantibacterialâ€ in the supermarket thinking it will protect your family from infections, you may be making a huge mistake. Most antibacterial products contain the chemical triclosan despite the hazard it poses to human health and the environment.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruleÂ effective 6 September 2016 banningÂ the use of triclosan, triclocarban andÂ 17 other chemicalsÂ in hand and body washes. According to the FDA, consumers donâ€™t need to use antibacterial soaps and some of them may even be dangerous.
Then why is triclosan being used so widely in India? This, when, currently there is no solid evidence that antibacterial washes are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water!
Advocacy by CERC
To address this grave concern, CERC has strongly urged the regulatory authorities to ban triclosan use in personal care products in line with the US FDA decision. CERC has also called for suitable modifications in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules and standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to reduce the limits for use of antibacterial agents in personal care products in line with international norms.
BIS standard IS: 11479 for antibacterial soaps (both solid and liquid) prescribes a limit for antibacterial agents of not more than 1%. This is considerably higher than limits prescribed by Canada, EU and Japan.
Human health: Triclosan has been known to cause hormone disruption, interference with muscle function, detrimental effects on the central nervous system, asthma and tumour development. Studies have shown that excessive use of triclosan can cause developmental problems in foetuses and newborns.
Antibiotic resistance: Triclosan was developed to prevent bacterial infections in hospitals. Its wide use today in personal care products will reduce the efficacy of prescription antibiotics. Another problem with antibacterial products containing triclosan is that they kill both good and bad bacteria.
Environment: After you use soap and toothpaste, most of the product goes down the drain where it enters the environment and waterways. There is concern that it could enter the food supply.
Triclosan use in India
In India, the commercial use of triclosan has increased exponentially over time and it can be found in many antibacterial soaps, antimicrobial handwashes, sanitizers, bodywashes, deodorants and even toothpastes and mouthwashes. Soap brands like Fem, Savlon, Dettol and Cinthol contain the chemical. Among toothpastes, Colgate Anti Cavity, Colgate Total, Pepsodent G (gumcare) and Pepsodent Germicheck mention triclosan as an ingredient. Certain mouthwashes also contain the hazardous chemical. Check the label of any such product you buy for the presence of triclosan and avoid buying it.