Triclosan was approved by the FDA in the 1960s as a surgical scrub and has since been used in everything from hand sanitizers, to bedding, to cosmetics, to pesticides. Despite this antimicrobial’s frequent use, there is no information out there to support whether or not it’s more effective in killing germs than basic soap and water or if it is actually safe for humans and the environment. In fact, there is mounting evidence to suggest that it is not safe.
Recent studies have shown that triclosan is making its way into streams and causing damage to aquatic life. Fish with triclosan toxicity have restricted muscle contractions, meaning they lose strength and slow down. This could prove fatal because the heart is a muscle. This doesn’t just apply to fish; during one study, mice that had been exposed to the chemical had as much as a 25% reduction in heart function within 20 minutes.
It is unclear whether or not this chemical is partially responsible for the evolution of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that pose a serious threat to our health. These mutated “bugs” are resistant to germ-killing agents and antibiotics and it is quite possible they are the result of triclosan killing helpful bacteria.
Researchers are also investigating whether triclosan causes thyroid and other hormone-related issues. Studies have shown fetal bone malformations in rodents, suggesting that triclosan disrupts the endocrine system and creates hormonal imbalances. This could be bad news for humans, too.
These risks led the EPA to begin reassessing the potential consequences of triclosan during the Nixon administration. Their slow progress has been the source of much criticism. In contrast, the EU has banned the use of triclosan in many products and Canada is making efforts against it, as well. With foreign governments taking action and the EPA trying to figure out whether or not this chemical is dangerous, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The good news is there are ways for you to avoid products with this chemical in them. Read labels before making purchases and follow these tips:
- Make sure you aren’t buying plastics that are advertised as antimicrobial. While it may seem like a perk, it’s not necessary for everything in your life to be bacteria-resistant.
- Purchase clothes, towels and bedding made with organic materials. Yes, triclosan can be found in these products too.
- Buy natural hygiene products like Nature’s Gate shampoo, deodorant or toothpaste. Not only are they free of triclosan, they are made without the use of other harmful chemicals.
- Purchase organic makeup such as Physician’s Formula Organic wear.
- Avoid liquid soaps, as most contain triclosan. When purchasing bar soap, be wary of triclosan’s sibling triclocarban.
- Make your own natural hygiene products. DIY Natural has some great recipes for all-natural, homemade alternatives.
Unless you’re working in a hospital, there’s really no need for you to use triclosan and even then it’s up for debate. It’s one thing to be clean; it’s another thing to be completely sterile. Remember, germs can sometimes be your friend and there is no evidence to support triclosan as being more effective than conventional methods of sanitization such as soap and water.