Cheatsheet: Triclosan

What is triclosan? Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical found in many consumer products. It's nearly ubiquitous in liquid hand soap and dishwashing detergent, but those arenâ't the only products it's in. Triclosan is also a common ingredient in toothpaste, facewash, deodorant, a host of personal care products, and even mattresses, toothbrushes and shoe insoles.

A U.S. FDA advisory committee has found that household use of antibacterial products provides no benefits over plain soap and water, and the American Medical Association recommends that triclosan not be used in the home, as it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

What problems are associated with triclosan? Triclosan is linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Wastewater treatment does not remove all of the chemical, which means it ends up in our lakes, rivers and water sources. That's especially unfortunate since triclosan is very toxic to aquatic life.

a consumer guide to avoiding triclosan HOW TO AVOID TRICLOSAN

  • Forgo antibacterial soap. FDA says it's no more effective than plain soap and water.
  • Watch for the antibacterial chemicals triclosan and triclocarban (triclosan's chemical cousin) in personal care products. Read ingredient labels or use Skin Deep to find products without them.
  • Avoid "antibacterial" products.Triclosan is used in everyday products like toothbrushes, toys, and cutting boards that may be labeled "antibacterial," "fights germs," "protection against mold," or make claims such as "odor-fighting" or "keeps food fresher, longer."

Triclosan may be in these products:

  • soap and dishwashing liquid
  • towels
  • mattresses
  • sponges
  • personal care products
  • shower curtains
  • toothbrushes
  • phones
  • kitchenware and plastic food containers
  • shoes
  • flooring and carpets
  • cutting boards
  • clothing and fabrics
  • toys

Tips to control germs: To protect your family's health from harmful microorganisms, follow these helpful tips from the EPA:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with plain soap.
  • Wash surfaces that contact food (e.g., utensils, cutting boards, counter tops) with a regular (not "antibacterial") detergent and warm water.
  • Wash children's hands and toys regularly. Again, simple soap and good old-fashioned scrubbing will suffice.

Where can I learn more? Read EWG's report on triclosan exposure. Use this handy map to track down the triclosan in your house. Triclosan-free body care products in Skin Deep.

Photo by Anthony Salvi.

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