- A) scorpion eggs
- B) arsenic
- C) gremlins
- D) Triclosan
- E) FD&C yellow#5
Scorpions would be better. They would hatch and their stings would hurt and then dissipate. Triclosan, by contrast, is painless, scentless, and practically invisible, but is capable of inflicting long-lasting, irreversible damage. So there’s your villain.
Introducing Triclosan: the bactericide and pesticide that you put on your skin everyday:
What’s it doing in my soap?
Its purpose is to kill germs and to make products resistant to bacterial growth, but it does so much more.
Let’s look at 10 Fun Ways that Triclosan wrecks your health:
- It kills the vital healthy bacteria that your body needs and causes harm to your gut microbiome.
- Its use has led to antibiotic resistance. Widespread use of antimicrobials in consumer products has contributed to the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs (germs adapt and become stronger), making common infections untreatable. (People are starting to die from infections that were previously treatable by antibiotics).
- It’s an endocrine disruptor. It interferes with testosterone and thyroid and estrogen hormones.
- It is linked to breast cancer and liver cancer. Triclosan interferes with the protein that detoxifies chemicals in the body.
- It is linked to kidney fibrosis.
- It reduces fertility.
- It weakens the heart and muscles.
- It worsens environmental allergies and rhinitis in children and may cause food allergies, like to peanuts. Anyone think that might be a problem?
- It breaks down to dioxin. Dioxins cause weakening of the immune system, decreased fertility, altered sex hormones, miscarriage, birth defects, and cancer. When combined with chlorinated tap water it forms chloroform, another carcinogen.
- It’s absorbed into our bodies. A Swedish study found high levels of Triclosan in three out of five human milk samples. So this chemical penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream and settles in fat cells.
- I lied—there’s one more: It damages marine mammals and plants, kills algae, and even changes hormones and sex characteristics of fish.
Triclosan was introduced for hospital use in 1969. When the Toxic Substance Control Act became law in 1976, an FDA loophole allowed 60,000 chemicals to be grandfathered in without safety testing. Triclosan avoided scrutiny and regulation. Research has amassed over the years pointing to serious threat to human health, but we all know that the FDA favors corporations over consumers…
I have been ranting about Triclosan for years. In fact, I would rather use no soap at all than one with Triclosan in it. My son and I were at the pediatrician years ago and popped into the bathroom to wash our hands on the way out. I saw the tell-tale “anti-bacterial” label and pulled him away, “Nope. You can’t wash your hands with that–it’s dangerous”. The staff heard me and looked at me like I was a wacko, endangering my son.
But…won’t my hands be cleaner?
No. Decades of research have proven that anti-microbial products provide no additional benefit and are no more effective than plain soap.
The Mayo Clinic web site indicates that cutting boards containing triclosan are ineffectual: “There’s no evidence that cutting boards containing triclosan, an antibacterial agent, prevent the spread of food-borne infections. These boards also may give a false sense of security and cause you to relax other efforts to keep the board clean.”
Who’s pumped up with Triclosan?
You are. Data (p.52) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed Triclosan in 75% of urine samples analyzed. In the 15 years since this research, Triclosan’s use in products has skyrocketed.
Where else is Triclosan hiding?
It’s Everywhere. This elusive chemical hides in everything: underwear, deodorant, lotions, shampoos, laundry detergent, hand sanitizer, bedding, building materials, furniture, kitchenware, apparel, cosmetics, pencils, plastics like cutting boards, textiles, ceramics, phones, toothbrushes, sponges, and children’s items like bibs, toys, and playground equipment. Triclosan also has been found in almost half of all rivers and streams in America. It’s present in the sewage sludge applied to agriculture, so it’s also in our food.
Robert H. Tukey, PhD, professor of chemistry , biochemistry and pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reported, “It has contaminated virtually all of the waterways in the United States, many in the world. It’s the major contaminant in sediment in most lakes. It’s present really everywhere.”
Finally banned by FDA
In September 2016 the FDA got off its ass and did something in the public interest: they passed a law to protect consumers instead of manufacturers. So get out your party hat. This is a big deal. The weight of evidence was so overwhelming and pressure was so intense that, after decades of “let’s wait and see”, the FDA could no longer ignore it.
Here are all the antiseptic ingredients that were banned under the same ruling: Cloflucarban, Fluorosalan, Hexachlorophene, Hexylresorcinol, Iodophors (6 complexes), Methylbenzenthonium chloride, Phenol, Secondary amyltricresols, Sodium oxychlorosene, Tribromsalan, Triclocarban, Triple Dye.
So obviously Triclosan has been removed from all products, right?
Wrong! Manufacturers should have phased out Triclosan in soap products by the deadline of September 2017. However, you may still find it lurking about in various bathrooms and kitchens, so keep your eyes on the lookout. Appallingly, Triclosan will continue to be used in hospitals and other commercial venues and also in a wide range of other products.
Where is Triclosan still being used and how can I avoid it?
If you see an “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” label on a product, you should run in the other direction. “Fights odors” is another clue. Triclosan hides under a lot of registered trademarks like Microban, Ultra-fresh, Biofresh, Lexol, Irgasan, Irgacare, Viv-20, Cloxifenolum and Ster-Zac. Other antibacterial ingredients to avoid that are replacing Triclosan: Benzalkonium chloride, Benzethonium chloride, and Chloroxylenol. They are all linked to allergies and/or respiratory distress.
Here is a guide to all the exposures of Triclosan in your house. In order to avoid a Triclosan-infused bath mat, I actually had to order one from Germany. When I was redoing my bathroom I fell in love with Silestone countertops. Then I found out the material was contained Triclosan. It would be great if the FDA stayed off its ass and banned the rest of Triclosan applications. Maybe they will if they hear from angry, poisoned citizens…
Toss the Toxins
Well, you know where Triclosan is not going to be tomorrow? It’s not going to be in your bathroom, right? And that will reduce your exposure. Check the ingredient list on all your personal care products. Here is a partial list of products containing Triclosan. This is a moving target because manufacturers are quietly removing the chemical in response to pressure from advocacy groups.
Fun fact: Triclosan is related to Agent Orange, the chemical used in the Vietnam War.
Want a good technical read about Triclosan? Here it is.
What can you do?
- Become a discriminating consumer. Know that the products in your environment are not necessarily safe, and that there are usually alternatives. Always read labels and ingredients—it will save you a lot of headaches, and perhaps liver cancer. If it’s a product like a couch, ask the manufacturer for a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), which will list it. I know, doing this research is a pain in the butt. But it’s also a pain in the butt to be infertile or to have a peanut allergy.
- Use pure Castile soap for hand washing, like this one. Here are some other good choices. For disinfecting, try apple cider vinegar, or a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. For overall cleaning: 20 drops of thyme essential oil mixed with an ounce of rubbing alcohol and 8 0z of water.
- Reference the Environmental Working Group’s handy form for checking the safety of ingredients. It takes two seconds. Oh—look what I found!
- Bring your own wipes and sprays and carry them in your purse. Then you won’t be at the mercy of cleaning products in restaurants, stores, hospitals, and other facilities.