What’s so bad about triclosan?

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In September this year, the US Food and Drug Administration announced a ban on the use of antibacterial compounds such as triclosan and triclocarban in household products such as liquid soaps. They found that these compounds were no more effective than conventional, ordinary soap and water, and they also recognised potential health and environmental risks associated with their use. So what’s so bad about triclosan?

Triclosan was originally developed as an antibacterial compound for use in the healthcare industry, and was used as a hospital scrub in the 1970s. It has since found its way into a whole range of consumer products, such as soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash, laundry detergent, and even in clothing such as socks. It is still used in hospital settings for a range of uses and is very effective – but do we really need hospital-grade antibacterial compounds in our everyday lives?

Some studies examining the effects of triclosan on animals have shown that exposure to high levels of the compound is associated with interference with certain hormones, including estrogen and thyroid hormones. Other studies have linked triclosan to the growth of liver tumours in mice. Numerous studies have linked triclosan use with the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, representing a potential public health risk.  It’s also toxic to aquatic life, representing a significant risk when released into the environment.

GECA’s Personal Care Products and Cleaning Products standards both completely ban triclosan in any certified products. “We’ve known about the potential hazards of triclosan for some time now, and we know that it’s just not necessary in the vast majority of consumer products,” said GECA’s standards and technical manager, Shaila Divakarla. “The benefits simply do not outweigh the risks.”

When you’re next shopping for personal care and cleaning products, keep an eye out for ‘triclosan’ in any ingredients listings. Any products marketing themselves as being antibacterial or antimicrobial (including products such as plastic ware, textiles, and so on) could also be potentially of concern. In these cases it’s usually best to avoid those products altogether.

Instead, choose products that don’t market themselves as being ‘anti-bacterial’. Keep your house (and your hands) clean with GECA certified cleaning products and personal care products, which are better for your health and for the environment.