Triclosan has been banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in certain products, after years of controversy surrounding its safety. While the chemical will no longer be present in a variety of soaps and body washes, it is still permitted in products ranging from toothpaste to sports helmets. Find out how to avoid triclosan!
What is Triclosan?
Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical first introduced in the United States in 1969 and registered as a pesticide. Initially it was used in hospitals, but soon crept into a wide variety of consumer products.
It is marketed under the trade name Microban® when used in plastics and clothing, and Biofresh® when used in acrylic fibers.
The FDA ban on Triclosan
The FDA ban applies only to consumer products, not to antibacterial soaps used in hospitals and food service settings—despite the fact that the FDA considers soap and water just as effective as triclosan and the other 18 ingredients cited in the ban.
The data and information submitted for these active ingredients are insufficient to demonstrate that there is any additional benefit from the use of these active ingredients in consumer antiseptic wash products compared to nonantibacterial soap and water.
Furthermore, according to the FDA, new scientific research has surfaced since the FDA’s 1994 evaluation.
New data suggests that the systemic exposure to these active ingredients is higher than previously thought, and new information about the potential risks from systemic absorption and long-term exposure is now available. New safety information also suggests that widespread antiseptic use could have an impact on the development of bacterial resistance.
While the ban applies to consumer soaps and body washes, it does not apply to toothpaste—thus you’ll still find Colgate Total on store shelves after the ban takes effect in 2017.
Research continues to show that triclosan, along with chemicals like BPA and phthalates, are endocrine-disruptors having the potential to wreak havoc on the body’s hormonal system. (See Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals 101.)
How to Avoid Triclosan
Triclosan is not only found in hand sanitizers and other body soaps, it is also disguised in many other consumer products. Read labels carefully and don’t hesitate to ask the company for full disclosure. Key terms include:
- Keeps food fresher, longer
- Triclocarban (a close cousin of triclosan)
Microban is found in a myriad of consumer products. According to the company’s website,
Our partners’ diverse antimicrobial product protection spans several areas, including industries such as consumer, commercial and foodservices, textiles, building materials and healthcare. Consumer products with Microban product protection like kitchen faucets, cutting boards and vacuum cleaners stay cleaner for longer by inhibiting stain and odor causing bacteria. Baby changing stations, public transportation interiors and food preparation equipment are examples of commercial and foodservice items that boast Microban built-in protection against stain and odor causing microbes. Home and business products can be kept cleaner for longer with building materials like antimicrobial-protected HVAC and air filtration systems and paints that resist the growth of mold and mildew.
With triclosan permeating our culture, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to choose safer products. Thanks to organizations like MADE SAFE, your label reading is done for you. I highly recommend MADE SAFE as a trustworthy go-to when trying to evaluate the purity of a product.
Learn more about the vision of MADE SAFE in this inspiring interview with founder Amy Ziff.
It’s not easy to be on the offense when it comes to chemicals like triclosan. Reading labels, speaking directly with companies, and voting with your dollars will go a long way to ensuring a safer tomorrow for ourselves and generations to come.