Triclosan is a common antibacterial added to numerous consumer products from soaps, toothpaste and deodorants to kitchenware, children’s toys and paint. The concern about triclosan is related to both health and environmental issues. Triclosan has been suspected as a contributing cause of skin irritation, allergic responses and antibiotic resistance as well as affecting aquatic ecosystems.
Despite these concerns, triclosan continues to be added to products due to its ability to prevent bacterial growth and its antifungal and antiviral properties. The question of whether it should be added has been the focus of legal actions and there have been attempts to pass laws to control its use.
Triclosan was first used as a surgical scrub in 1972 and was confined to hospital use at that time. For the last 10 years, there has been a surge in antibacterial products, particularly handwashes such that triclosan was found in 75 percent of the urine of Americans over the age of five, according to a Centers for Disease Control survey.
According to The New York Times, several studies have shown that triclosan may alter hormone regulation in lab animals or cause an increase in antibiotic resistance. Because of these findings, Representative Edward Markey from Massachusetts pressured the FDA to write stricter regulations for the addition of antiseptics to products last year. Markey has tried to put a ban on triclosan being added to hand soap, products that come in contact with food such as cutting boards and items marketed to children.
The FDA has acknowledged for years that triclosan added to soap is no more effective than just washing one’s hand with regular soap and they are aware of the results of the mentioned studies. However, they state the “FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.” (FDA sheet)
Some companies have voluntarily removed triclosan from their products substituting other ingredients.