What Is Triclosan? A Shady Chemical You Should Unfriend

What Is Triclosan? A Shady Chemical You Should Unfriend

Angie Cho
Aug 26, 2010

Found in products like cutting boards and children’s clothing, triclosan pretends to be an innocent antibacterial agent, a friend of humankind keeping you safe from germs. The reality is that triclosan is very shady, is heavily scrutinized, and being investigated by both the FDA and the EU. Lucky for us, triclosan is easy to unfriend.

According to the National Library of Medicine, triclosan is used in a wide array of consumer products like soaps, hand sanitizers, deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams, mouthwashes, cosmetics, tissues, pesticides, cleaning supplies, kitchen tools, toys, bedding, clothing, and trash bags.

The Skinny Science:

Triclosan is a white crystalline powder added to consumer products as an antibacterial agent. Ubiquitous triclosan is present in 75% of Americans. And the CDC’s exposure report states that the concentration of triclosan has risen more than 40% in the last two years.

Word to the Wise:

While the debate about the potential human and environmental dangers of triclosan is still being duked out, it has not been categorized as hazardous. There are three major issues that give the FDA reason for concern. First, it is under scrutiny as an endocrine system disruptor. Second, there is the question of whether it is creating antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”. Third, triclosan levels are on the rise in our drinking water and rivers. When combined with water, triclosan produces dangerous chloroform gas that causes liver damage in humans and destroys wildlife in our environment.

Green your Routine:

There is a reason that classics transcend the test of space and time. Good old soap and water are one of them! According to the FDA and multiple research studies, soap and water are just as effective as consumer-grade antibacterial soaps in preventing illness and removing bacteria from the hands. This means that you don’t need triclosan, or other antibacterial soaps, to have clean hands.

Here are some products that have natural antibacterial properties.

  • Skin care: manuka oil, tea tree oil, witch hazel, neem, and aloe vera.
  • Foods: garlic, onions, honey, fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, fermented foods, and golden seal, to name just a few.
  • Fabrics: bamboo, hemp and wool.

Prevention is the Best Cure:

To remove triclosan from your home and body, avoid triclosan and its alternative names.

  • In personal care products, look for triclosan and its alternative names: Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, Cloxifenolum. It also has a close cousin called triclocarban.
  • In plastics and clothing, look for triclosan and its alternative name Microban.
  • In acrylic fibers, look for triclosan and its alternative name Biofresh.

As always, stay informed and green your routine to what fits you best.

Extra Tidbits:

  • Alternative names quick   Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, Cloxifenolum. It also has a close cousin called triclocarban.  Microban in plastics and clothing. Biofresh in acrylic fibers.
  • Triclosan is restricted or banned in many countries, including the EU, but is not by the FDA.
  • For more information, check out these sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Web MD.

Previous Decoding Household Chemicals Posts:
Bubble Trouble: What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
For Frog's Eyes Only: What is Formaldehyde?

(Image: Courtesy of Time Passages Nostalgia)

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