This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!
What it is: A chlorinated bisphenol made from petroleum derivatives.
What it does: Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent with some antiviral properties. It’s currently found in the following products: soaps, hand washes, dish-washing products, laundry detergents and softeners, plastics (e.g., toys, cutting boards, kitchen utensils), toothpaste and mouthwashes, deodorants and antiperspirants, cosmetics and shaving creams, acne treatment products, hair conditioners, bedding, trash bags, apparel like socks and undershirts, hot tubs, plastic lawn furniture, surgical scrubs, implantable medical devices, pesticides, mattresses, insulation, carpet padding, and other flooring underlayments.
Why we’re featuring it today: Triclosan is included in our Honestly Free Guarantee, meaning we’ll never, ever use it. Because it’s such a widely used chemical, some people wonder why we would choose to avoid it. Here’s our reasoning in a nutshell:
Triclosan poses health risks. Most notably, it’s a hormone disruptor that’s been linked to reproductive and developmental harm in animal studies, and it can react with the chlorine in treated tap water to produce carcinogenic chloroform. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has found triclosan in the bodies of nearly 75% of Americans over the age of six.
Triclosan is persistent (meaning it lingers, creating more opportunities for it to cause harm). According to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA), “Manufacturers of a number of triclosan-containing toothpaste and soap products claim that the active ingredient continues to work for as long as 12 hours after use. Thus, consumers are exposed to triclosan for much longer than the 20 seconds it takes to wash their hands or brush their teeth.” Worse yet, it lingers in the environment (it’s been found in river sediment that’s over 30 years old), damages aquatic ecosystems, and bioaccumulates in fish. Some fish have been found to have levels of triclosan in their systems thousands of times higher than what was recorded in the surrounding water.
There’s no good reason to use it. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), currently there’s no proof that triclosan in care products provides any health benefits beyond some anti-gingivitis benefits in toothpaste. They actually just recently ordered manufacturers using triclosan to submit evidence that their products are safe and effective. If not, they’ll have to remove the triclosan or change their labels. (We’re thinking this proposed rule would have been a good thing to require BEFORE companies were allowed to sell these products! Don’t you agree?) Also, according to the APUA, hard products like textiles and plastics that have added triclosan aren’t delivering what consumers might assume. They say, “Microban® [another name for triclosan] controls microbial growth and odors within the impregnated surface but does not offer the user any significant protection from infectious microbes on the exterior surfaces of those items. This could potentially create a false sense of security, and cause the user to relax other efforts to keep surfaces clean.”
Want your home to be Honestly Free of triclosan?
How You Can Avoid It:
Read labels. Look for triclosan in ingredients lists and watch for words and claims like “antibacterial” and “odor-fighting.” On clothing, toys, and hard goods, you can also look for mention of Microban or Biofresh.
Sign the pledge. Support the national non-profit Beyond Pesticides’ campaign to curb the use of this toxic antibacterial by signing their pledge to stop using triclosan. It’s a simple way to add your voice to the choir and let our government and manufacturers know we want triclosan removed from our everyday products.
Have any questions about triclosan? Let us know in the comments. We’re always happy to help!