Triclosan, an antibacterial agent used in domestic soaps and other household items which is said to reduces microorganisms from the skin, is still available in Australia despite being banned in the United States.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration began reveiwing triclosan in mid-2017 to see whether any regulatory actions should occur in Australia.
Triclosan is also used in items such as carpet and toys to stop bacterial contamination.
According to Biomedical Science research associate Christine Carson, the chemical is doing more harm than good.
“Many, many studies have shown that triclosan-containing antibacterial soaps formulated for domestic use are no better at removing or reducing microorganisms on skin than plain, un-medicated soap,” she said.
“We’re not getting a benefit from using it and we may be promoting antibiotic resistance which is an infinitely larger problem.”
Studies have shown that the use of triclosan can also interfere with human hormone systems, with potential risk in the long term.
“It is thought that triclosan can mimic the action of oestrogen in the human body,” Ms Carson said.
“Human hormones are pretty finely tuned, especially in children.
“Exposure to lots of non-oestrogen chemicals that can act like oestrogen can mess up these finely tuned systems.
“This is yet another reason to reduce its use.”
The US Food and Drug Administation banned 19 ingredients including triclosan in September 2016 as there was insufficient evidence to prove their effectiveness.
The ban does not include hand sanitisers used in hospitals and medical centres.
Senior executive officer of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases Marilena Salvo said triclosan use in Australia should also be limited to specific situations where evidence proved its effectiveness in preventing infection.
“Antiseptics such as triclosan… have a role in preventing infection in specific situations – such as in hospitals to prevent surgical infections,” she said.
“However, there is little role outside of [hospitals and medical centres]. In home settings, soap and water is just as effective as antibacterial products.”
Founder of Safe Cosmetics Australia Amina Kitching said legislation regarding cosmetic ingredients in Australia needed a complete overhaul.
“Triclosan’s chemical structure is said to resemble the herbicide ‘Agent Orange’ used by the US military during the Vietnam war. This is a highly toxic herbicide and chemical that was used to destroy enemies crops and vegetation,” she said.
“This factor alone should be reason enough to ban triclosan from products that are widely stocked by supermarkets and retailers across Australia.
“Consumer health should be a priority.”
Currently, there are 27 products listed under the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods containing triclosan.
The TGA and the Australian Government Department of Health are continuing to review the use of triclosan in Australia.
“If required, a submission to consider the rescheduling of the substance may be made to the relevant scheduling delegate,” a spokesperson for the federal Department of Health said.
“Until this review has been completed, the TGA has no further comment in relation to either restricting or banning the substance in Australia.”