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Calls for ban on antibacterial ingredient

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/09/2016

Experts are joining calls for New Zealand to follow a US ban on an antibacterial handwash ingredient that has been found to do more harm than good.

The US and Drug Administration over the weekend announced it had banned 19 ingredients commonly found in household antibacterial products, including widely used triclosan.

The administration said there was no evidence the products were safe for everyday use or that they were any more effective than soap at preventing illness.

"In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term," it said.

New Zealand toxicologists now say triclosan should be banned here as well.

University of Canterbury senior chemistry lecturer Sally Gaw says the product - which is used in soaps, toothpaste, children's toys, plastic wrap and sportswear - could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"About 90 per cent of the triclosan used in soaps is washed off the body and enters the sewerage system. [It's] not fully removed in wastewater treatment plants and can be released into the environment," Dr Gaw said.

"It can affect hormone function, damage the liver and kidneys and is a suspected carcinogen."

There was "no reason to keep adding it to consumer products", she said.

Louis Tremblay, a toxicologist from the Cawthron Institute, agreed, saying triclosan was useful in some other areas - such as for vets and doctors - and a ban needed to be targeted at consumer products.

"I think this is an important step that New Zealand definitely needs to follow," she said.

"However, it has to be done in a strategic manner as triclosan and other molecules remain an important weapon against nasty germs and should be used for the right purposes."

New Zealand's Environmental Protection Agency last month accepted a Green Party application to consider reviewing triclosan.

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