|"Do" No Triclosan (L) vs. "Don't" With Triclosan (R)|
TRICLOSAN: ENOUGH, ALREADY!
It's time to wash our hands of triclosan, the active ingredient in most antibacterial liquid hand and dish soaps, as well as some toothpastes, deodorants and even children's bubble baths. Triclosan has been linked to a number of adverse health effects as well as to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which is a major global threat, according to the World Health Organization. If ingested, triclosan can cause nausea and vomiting. But most recently, on November 17, exposure to triclosan was linked to the growth of cancerous liver tumors in mice, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A nice summary for the layperson appears in Science Daily.
For more than a decade, environmental and health advocates have been urging that the FDA and EPA ban triclosan. Back in 2002, in a report for the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association, doctors warned that triclosan had not been shown to be any more effective than plain soap in removing bacteria, while it carried the extra risk of contributing to the risk of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Luckily, conscious consumers don't have to wait for government agencies. We can act on our own behalf by simply reading labels and buying products whose ingredients lists do not include triclosan.
Manufacturers have gotten the message, even if FDA and EPA apparently have not. Witness the Ajax dish soap in the photo above. It does not contain triclosan, and instead of making antibacterial claims, the label boasts: "Washes away bacteria from hands." That's a good truthful summary of what plain soap and water does, and that's all a body needs, unless you're in a hospital. The Dawn dish soap, on the other hand, still bears the "Antibacterial" claim and lists triclosan among its ingredients. Talk about outdated!
Triclosan has been on GreenerPenny's Top Chemicals to Avoid Lists for personal care and home cleaning products, such as dish soaps, since I founded this blog in 20007. When I discovered it in Colgate toothpaste, I was truly gobsmacked. Since then, EWG has done an excellent summary of various studies regarding triclosan's presence in the urine of 75 percent of Americans tested, and triclosan's contribution to worsening of asthma symptoms and other respiratory problems. A study in June, 2014 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found links between allergy risk and antimicrobial agents in children's urine.
For more information, check out the practical triclosan tips from the Tufts Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics.
For handy reference, see my shopping guide for liquid dish soaps that are free of triclosan and other toxic and irritating ingredients, and my evergreen personal care products list.