Exposure to chemicals in hand sanitizer could lead to hypothyroidism

A recent lawsuit by an environmental nonprofit accuses the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of allowing certain chemicals in household products that may put Americans at risk for hypothyroidism. Fox News reports that the agency claimed toxic chemicals found in antimicrobial soap and other personal care products could damage reproductive organs, sperm quality and the production of sex and thyroid hormones. The National Resources Defense Council alleges that these claims are true.

According to the lawsuit, recent bio-monitoring results found residues of triclosan, a chemical commonly found in cleaning products, in 75 percent of Americans over 6 years old. The nonprofit group claims that they first proposed the regulation of products for over-the-counter use more than 30 years ago, yet they are still unregulated.

"As a result of the FDA's lengthy delay, consumers remain exposed to triclosan and triclocarban through a variety of over-the-counter drug products, such as antimicrobial hand soaps, that proliferate on the market," according to the lawsuit.

The popularity of antimicrobial products has grown in recent years due to flu epidemics such as H1N1, and these products are increasingly found in American homes and offices. The FDA said in April that it would review the safety of triclosan, but that there was no evidence it could be harmful to people.

The nonprofit wants an order requiring the FDA to finish its study on the conditions of use by a specific deadline. Responding to a letter from U.S. Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the FDA said it could not give a specific timeline, but said it was "working diligently" to publish the proposed rule.