Nasty chemical of the month: triclosan
One of the chemicals under close scrutiny at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) right now is an antibacterial chemical called Triclosan and it’s everywhere. As well as being used in soaps, toothpaste and other body care products, Triclosan is used in other consumer goods like rubbish bags, toys, linen and even mattresses and the implications for our health are serious.
The FDA is questioning the effectiveness and safety of Triclosan, stating that;
- ‘It has not been proven to be any more effective at getting rid of germs than ordinary soap and water’. It was originally designed to be used at much higher concentrations in hospital environments but has proven to be less effective in diluted form for consumer goods.
- ‘It could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects’. Bacterial resistance can happen as a result of killing off the weaker strains of bacteria and selecting for stronger more resistant strains to survive and thrive. Chemicals like Triclosan that mimic the natural hormones produced by the body are known as ‘endocrine disrupting chemicals’ (EDC’s) and can interfere with healthy hormonal development.
Consumers might assume that legislation is in place to protect us from unsafe chemicals. It simply isn’t, and change can be slow. The FDA proposed removing Triclosan from some products over 30 years ago, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, but no action on this has meant that its use has continued and grown.
In the absence of tighter legislation to protect us from unsafe chemicals like Triclosan we need to rethink our basic assumptions about the safety of everyday products. Unless we want to be treated like guinea pigs, we need to start reading labels and finding out what’s in the products we use. Always look for a full list of ingredients and use antibacterial products sparingly rather than routinely.
The use of unsafe chemicals in everyday products is a major health issue that affects families, we’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
- A Key Antibacterial Soap Ingredient Must Go (scientificamerican.com)
- The danger in your antibacterial soap (salon.com)