You know that friend who is actually an enemy in disguise? She pretends to support you during your heartaches and she acts like she’s happy for your success, but then when you least expect it she’ll gossip about you or betray you. Not a cool feeling, is it? Well, if we could take that feeling, betrayal and nastiness and put it in a product, it would be triclosan.
Triclosan is a chemical that has been receiving a lot of attention lately, but only because more and more research is revealing how dangerous it can be for our health and that of our planet.
Triclosan is an ingredient that is found in many consumer products, such as children’s toys, clothing, antibacterial soaps and other hygiene products, as well as cosmetics. It works to prevent or decrease bacterial contamination. You might have read that and thought, 'So what? That’s a good thing!’ and it sure seems so, but the problem is that there is lots more about triclosan that is harmful (sort of like that frenemy I was telling you about earlier).
Triclosan was first registered with the EPA in 1969 as a pesticide! Now imagine that you’re putting this on your skin! It is found in many products. A survey by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) located triclosan in 112 of 259 liquid hand soap products as well as 47 of 609 toothpastes. Animal studies have shown that triclosan can have some very dangerous effects, such as causing reduced heart and muscle function. Another study found that triclosan encourages the growth of bacteria that is resistant to a common antibiotic. So, although it is claiming to get rid of bacteria, it is also allowing other, more dangerous bacteria, to thrive.
Triclosan also poses dangerous threats to the environment. In similar vein to Bisphenol-A (BPA,) triclosan disrupts hormones and can alter male and female sex hormones in animals, which can lead to changes in fertility as well as cancer. It usually winds up in our water where it is highly toxic to aquatic life.
If you are worried about the dangers of not using anti-bacterial soaps, bear this in mind: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee found that antibacterial soaps did not have any benefits when compared to regular soap and water.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.