As a way to get back to the basics of Accidentally Green, I’ve been addressing ingredients in personal care products this month. We’ve talked about dental products and hair products. Triclosan is an antibacterial ingredient found in all kinds of personal care products – yet its hazardous to your health.
If you haven’t been mindful of your shopping habits, chances are there are some products with Triclosan in your home.
I know it was true of my home before I turned accidentally green. I used to use antibacterial face wash with Triclosan in an attempt to help my acne. I loved using antibacterial liquid hand soap. And I bought tubes of Colgate Total toothpaste whenever I had a coupon – even if it gave my tongue and mouth a strange, numb feeling.
Triclosan has no business being in personal care products, though.
While it is used to stop the spread of bacteria, it was registered as a pesticide in 1969. Initially it was used in surgical scrubs, but now the ingredient has found its way into toothpaste, soap, mouthwash, cosmetics, deodorant, and shaving gel. (If you carefully read labels, you’ll notice it’s also used in clothing, shoes, mouse pads, yoga mats, computer keyboards, cutting boards, and children’s toys.)
In a Feb. 10, 2013, article in The Chicago Tribune, Dr. Sarah Janssen, a physician and senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Triclosan is what we call a stupid use of a chemical … It doesn’t work, it’s not safe and it is not being regulated.”
In 2010, Triclosan came by the Congressional Food and Water Watch and U.S Food and Drug Administration. Because it’s used in so many different products, Triclosan is regulated by the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Triclosan drew criticism because of scientific studies showing it:
- Disrupts the endocrine system. According to the EPA, they’re investigating Triclosan’s estrogen-related effects, as well as its effect on thyroid hormones.
- May create antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Once dumped in water, Triclosan attaches to surfaces and has the potential to bioaccumulate and harm aquatic life.
Known to irritate eyes, lungs, and skins, Triclosan builds as a body burden. As a body burden, Triclosan has been detected in breast milk, and it’s known to interfers with testosterone activity in cells.
Triclosan’s banned in Canada, Japan, and several countries in the European Union. However, according to The Chicago Tribune, the U.S. FDA “has never completed a safety review and issued binding usage rules for Triclosan.”
How to protect yourself
While Triclosan does prevent bacteria, fungi, and mildew from spreading, it doesn’t protect against viruses. That means it’s just as effective to use plain old soap and water when trying to prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses – and actually, a lot healthier.
Because of Triclosan’s inclusion in so many products, avoid buying things labeled as “anti-bacterial” – and check the ingredient labels. (Try a Triclosan Challenge, too.)
For homeowners with septic systems, avoid Triclosan. The antibacterial kills the necessary bacteria and shortens the life of the septic system.
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