Why the FDA is concerned about Triclosan – and you should be too

July 6, 2010

The US’s Food and Drug Agency is reevaluating the safety of a popular chemical additive called triclosan, based on recent studies that seem to indicate it causes endocrine disruption in the body and leads to the emergence of drug-resistant “super” bacteria. According to reports, the FDA has allegedly been working for over 38 years to establish rules for the use of triclosan but has not completed the assignment. Throughout this time the agency has continued to approve its usage, including a 1997 decision to allow its use in Colgate Total toothpaste, but is now reevaluating that decision.

You may not know the name, but you will certainly have come across Triclosan as it is commonly found in liquid antibacterial hand soaps and sanitizers, dishwashing detergents, shaving gels, toothpastes, clothing and even children’s toys. It was originally designed as a surgical scrub for people in the medical field, but is now used in pesticides and a variety of different consumer products to ward off pathogens.

This may be more than you need to know, but its use is so common in that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traces of triclosan can be found in the urine of about 75 percent of the population.

Triclosan is used because it is believed to be a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent, however other than as a treatment for gingivitis in toothpaste, there is no evidence that it provides any benefits in other consumer product applications. A 2005 advisory panel to the FDA agreed, noting that there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps with triclosan work any better than plain soap and water.

I am not suggesting you panic, but if you are using antibacterial hand gels on a daily basis then a simple precaution would be to go back to the good old-fashioned bar of soap as a sensible precaution.


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