Although not approved by the FDA, triclosan is a common antibacterial agent in a number of household cleaning and personal hygiene products sold in the United States, including soaps, deodorants, hand-sanitizers, toothpastes, and mouth wash. In recent years, manufacturers have also expanded the use of triclosan as an antimicrobial in cosmetics, socks, workout clothes, and toys.

On August 14, 2012, researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado published findings suggesting that the antibacterial ingredient triclosan causes muscle weakness. The researchers observed that after exposure to triclosan, heart muscles in mice showed a diminished ability to contract, and that fish exposed to the ingredient showed reduced swimming activity. Triclosan has been previously scrutinized for its disruptive effects on the body’s endocrine system and whether its use promotes the creation of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Some companies have already responded to increased public concerns about triclosan by taking steps to remove it from their product lines. Last year, for example, a major manufacturer of oral care, personal care, and home care products announced it was removing triclosan from most of its home-care products, and more recently a multi-national manufacturer of personal hygiene and other products followed suit announcing that it is phasing triclosan out of its beauty and baby care products.

Companies that have incorporated triclosan into their products should develop risk mitigation strategies to prepare for the inevitable class action lawsuits aimed at deep corporate pockets. At a minimum, manufacturers and users of triclosan products should closely monitor new research, FDA and EPA comments, and developing governmental actions impacting the continued use of triclosan.

For more information, see the full alert at the link below.

Content for this post was provided by the following product risk management attorneys in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, DC office: Monica M. Welt (counsel) and John Fuson (partner).