Triclosan gained popularity in the 1970’s as an antibacterial agent. Though studies have proven that it is efficient in preventing gingivitis, there has yet to be any evidence of its effectiveness in any other product (according to the FDA themselves).
The American Medical Association recommends AGAINST using Triclosan products at home and the FDA has recently been convinced to take a closer look at the potential dangers of long term exposure to the chemical (as seen in a statement on their own website: fda.gov).
What is Triclosan?
The chemical structure of Triclosan is similar to some of the most toxic chemicals on earth (such as dioxins and PCBs). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened a petition to ban Triclosan and even registered the compound as a pesticide.
Because Triclosan is classified as a chlorophenol, it is part of a group of substances known to cause cancer in test rats and is suspected of doing the same to humans. Phenol can cause skin irritations (which are often unnoticed, since phenols also temporarily deactivate sensory nerve endings). If ingested, even small amounts of this type of chemical can cause cold sweats, circulatory collapse, convulsions, coma and even death.
The overuse of Triclosan is most concerning because of the chemical’s status as a persistent organic pollutant. Persistant pollutants will accumulate over time in the environment (or the body’s fat cells) to increasingly dangerous levels because they do not degrade quickly enough, and are difficult for the body to expell. Triclosan also reacts with chlorine (to form chloroform gas), and converts into dioxins when exposed to UV radiation. Dioxins are considered extremely dangerous to the environment and human health because they act as Endocrine Disruptors (meaning they prevent the body from releasing hormones that control reproduction, development, and behavior).
Triclocarban is a sister to Triclosan and is also found in many antibacterial products. This chemical has not been researched as heavily as Triclosan because it is more difficult to measure, but because of it’s properties, Triclocarban is considered to to have the same or similar effects as Triclosan.
Triclosan has been found in 55% of our rivers and 75% of our bodies. Because it can take decades for the chemical to degrade, Triclosan has the potential to build up to much higher levels.
These levels have already proven toxic (even in small amounts) to aquatic life (especially beneficial types of algae). It has also been shown to disrupt the thyroid gland and impair development in frogs. The increased use of antibacterials in general has been linked to increased allergies in children as well.
Avoiding Triclosan & Triclocarban
Unfortunately, Triclosan is commonly found in both people who use products containing the chemical, and in people who are exposed to it in the environment. Because of the rising levels of Triclosan in water and even dust, simply avoiding products containing the chemical may not be enough to keep you Triclosan free.
According to the FDA, products containing Triclosan are required to include the chemical as an ingredient on the label. FoodAndWaterWatch.org has listed the following products known to contain this compound:
- Neutrogena Deep Clean Body Scrub Bar
- Lever 2000 Special Moisture Response Bar Soap, Antibacterial
- CVS Antibacterial Hand Soap
- Dial Liquid Soap, Antibacterial Bar Soap
- Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
- Cetaphil Gentle Antibacterial Cleansing Bar
- Clearasil Daily Face Wash
- Clean & Clear Oil Free Foaming Facial Cleanser
- Dawn Complete Antibacterial Dish Liquid
- Ajax Antibacterial Dish Liquid
- Colgate Total Toothpaste
- Right Guard Sport Deodorant
- Old Spice Red Zone, High Endurance and Classic Deodorants
- Vaseline Intensive Care Antibacterial Hand Lotion
Epidemiologist and professor of environmental health, Dr. David Ozonoff, said this in the Boston Globe:
“If there’s no evidence that this thing is going to do me any good and there may be some risk, why would I screw around with it?”