Triclosan – what you need to know
On September 9, 2016, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned triclosan – a chemical originally registered as a pesticide in 1969 and used since early 1970s in a very wide variety of anti-bacterial products – including, but not limited to soaps, shampoos, mouthwashes, toothpastes, deodorants, as well as household cleaning products, clothing, toys, bedding, trash bags and others.
In its statement, FDA notes that “…companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections…” Moreover, as noted further, “…some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”
(Triclosan, by the way, is not the only anti-bacterial agent used in consumer products, but FDA has deferred rulemaking for one year on three additional ingredients used in consumer wash products – benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol (PCMX), so antibacterial products containing these ingredients continue to be marketed).
As good as this triclosan ban sounds, many people feel that it’s a little too late – we are talking about a chemical, the use of which has been so widespread over a number of years that some studies (like this study of expecting mothers from Brooklyn, NY, done by Arizona State University) have demonstrated its presence in 100% of urine samples and 51% of cord blood samples of the population tested). Because triclosan is used a lot In healthcare (in surgical scrubs and hand washes, as coating in surgical sutures and as a method of decolonization of patients whose skin carries methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA), doctors and nurses have blood and urine levels of triclosan several orders of magnitude higher than other people.
Triclosan is the chemical which, because of such widespread use, ends up in municipal water supplies, where it cannot be sufficiently degraded and removed to the extent necessary and, thus, can be potentially re-introduced into your drinking water.