Triclosan: a dangerously common ingredient?
The idea of an everyday product containing potentially hazardous chemicals is not an uncommon occurrence. Many popular products can be detrimental to both our health and the environment. Does that surprise you? What if the toothpaste or soap you use on a daily basis contains some of the same ingredients found in pesticides? Unfortunately, this isn’t a hypothetical question. One of these chemicals has been right under our noses all this time: Triclosan.
The prevalence of Triclosan
Triclosan is a widespread chemical ingredient which raised concern because of its use in pesticides. However, it also has many commercial applications:
- It’s used as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent in cosmetic and personal care products, such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash and hand soap.
- It’s used to prevent the growth of microorganisms in household products (such as detergents), carpets and even toys.
- It’s used in hospitals and other health care centres for infection control and prevention.
There’s a misconception that anti-bacterial soap is a more effective cleaning agent. A study published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that regular soap and water cleans just as well as triclosan-based anti-bacterial soap.
So, what’s the danger? Although the effects of triclosan on our health is open for debate, there are some concerns that can’t be ignored:
- The overuse of anti-bacterial soaps can potentially lead to the emergence of biocide- and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Certain studies on rats have shown that triclosan can impact hormones in our body.
- Triclosan can be dangerous when it comes in contact with tap water. Tap water contains chlorine, which reacts with the chemical and produces a cancer-linked substance called chloroform.
Triclosan can have not only negative effects on our health, but the environment as well:
- When triclosan is mixed with chlorinated tap water, a chemical reaction creates a pollutant called dioxin after exposed to ultraviolet light.
- Triclosan sticks to aquatic organisms in rivers, lakes, ponds and may also settle in the bottom of water sources. As a result, it accumulates very easily and can be ingested by various bacteria and algae living in the ecosystem.
- The chemical has also been found in fish, dolphins, black worms and even land creatures such as earthworms.
The good news is that there are many triclosan-free options on the market. It’s important to educate yourself and read the list of ingredients on the products you use. While the verdict is still out on the safety and environmental impact of triclosan, why take the risk when there are so many other choices available?
Alain Ménard, microbiologist, co-founded The Green Beaver Company with biochemist Karen Clark. They were both appalled by the amount of chemicals found in kid’s shampoos, bubble baths and other products. With their new family in mind, they decided to do something about it. They left the pharmaceutical and pesticide industry behind to create healthier natural products. Alain regularly gives seminars on the potential health risks and environmental hazards associated with the chemicals found in everyday personal care products.