Triclosan, a chemical added to many dozens of household products, has been in the news this past week as a new study finds that the chemical weakens muscle by interfering with the movement of calcium in cells. Data from the study “provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health.”
Where are the environmental protections that we rely on? Earlier this year, the Canadian Ministers of Environment and Health announced a finding that “triclosan is not harmful to human health, but in significant amounts can cause harm to the environment.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control Fact Sheet on Triclosan still says, “More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to triclosan.” Despite the slow-moving national regulation of chemical additives, the research finally seems to have reached a tipping point.
Environmental Working Group, in their 2008 report on Triclosan, recommended removing the chemical from all consumer products. That might seem an extreme conclusion at first. For those companies that add the chemical to dozens of products, it might seem impossible to discontinue its use. Continued research and persistent pressure have brought us to the point where a ban on triclosan seems possible, even probable.
Claims As a Germ Killer
Triclosan has been added to consumer products as a germ killer. We know it best as an ingredient in anti-bacterial soap. Does antibacterial soap work better than other soap to kill bacteria? No, dozens of studies have found that triclosan does not work better than plain soap.
It’s Not Just Soap
You might think you would find this so-called anti-bacterial pesticide just in anti-bacterial soap, but it is used in consumer products throughout your house: toothpaste, toys, filters, vacuums, cart covers, and even hockey helmets.
A few of the products containing triclosan include: Colgate Total, Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Faberware Microban Cutting Boards, Fellowes Cordless Microban Keyboard and Microban Mouse Pad, Biofresh socks, Playskool toys (Stack ‘n Scoop Whale, Rockin’ Radio, Hourglass, Sounds Around Driver, Roll ‘n Rattle Ball, Animal Sounds Phone, Busy Beads Pal, Pop ‘n Spin Top, Lights ‘n Surprise Laptop), Ticonderoga Antibacterial pencil, Bauer hockey helmets, Miller Paint Interior Paint, Dupont Air Filters, BioEars earplugs, Petmate LeBistro feeders and waterers, Infantino cart covers and baby carriers, Bissell Healthy Home Vacuum, Rival Seal-A-Meal Vacuum Food Sealer, CleenFreek SportsHygiene Yoga Mat. (See Beyond Pesticides for their list of products containing triclosan, and see the SkinDeep database for a list of cosmetics that include triclosan. Check the Good Guide for product ratings, and download their app so you can scan bar codes as you shop.)
Especially as more research shows potential harm from triclosan, you might find that the chemical disappears from some of these products. As Beyond Pesticides points out, “many companies are quietly taking triclosan out of their products Remember to always refer to product labels to determine whether triclosan is contained in your product.”
Getting Rid of Triclosan
As with so much of the chemical body burden resulting from the experimental innovations of modern synthetics, chemicals accumulate in our bodies. There is a way a woman can rid herself of these chemicals: breastfeed. That’s right. Triclosan and other chemicals are found in breastmilk then passed to babies. It is unlikely we can prevent all exposure to Triclosan and other dangerous chemicals without a complete ban from consumer products, but we as individuals can limit our exposure by understanding the products that use these chemicals and avoiding those products.
Environmental Working Group recommended in 2008 that Triclosan be banned from all consumer products. Just this week, Johnson & Johnson announced that they will remove Triclosan from all products by the end of 2015. Consumer pressure does work to remove these dangerous ingredients from the products that surround us. It helps us all to vote with our dollars and avoid products with experimental chemical ingredients, but we also need to keep up the pressure as consumers to encourage changes like this.
As you pack your child’s school bag, if you are looking for naturally antibacterial cleaners that do not add to your child’s chemical body burden, consider Clean George (Made in USA) and Graydon (Made in Toronto). Both products use essential oils as the antibacterial ingredient.