Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press Published Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 1:58PM EDT

NEW YORK — Environmental activists can try to prove a chemical found in some soaps is potentially dangerous and the Food and Drug Administration is failing to regulate it, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Manhattan reinstated a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defence Council against the FDA over its failure to finalize its regulation of triclosan, a chemical used in antibacterial soap, toothpaste and other consumer goods. The FDA has said it is looking into animal studies suggesting triclosan can disrupt hormone levels.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said the council’s evidence establishes that triclosan is potentially dangerous and that at least one of its members is frequently exposed to soap containing it. The court did not reinstate the group’s claims regarding another chemical, triclocarban.

The group’s evidence shows triclosan may be harmful, that the FDA is unable to determine if it is and that the FDA’s failure to regulate lets triclosan enter the market without its safety being confirmed, the 2nd Circuit wrote.

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