Triclosan free hand sanitizer

Triclosan was first introduced in the United States in 1969 and has been on the market for 40 years. For a long time, it was mainly used only in hospitals and when its use crept out of industry and into homes, critics quickly began to raise health concerns about the chemical, but the question with any chemical is whether the benefits outweigh the risks of using it.

Triclosan is a chlorinated bisphenol antiseptic and useful against Gram-positive and most Gram-negative bacteria but with poor activity against Pseudomonas species. In India, lot of antibacterial soaps, antimicrobial hand washes, sanitizers, body washes, deodorants and some toothpastes contain Triclosan of upto 2% in concentration or its bad cousin Triclocarban.

Ban on Triclosan:

Triclosan was already banned in Canada and planned to be banned from Minnesota in 2017. In USA, the FDA called on manufacturers of products using triclosan to prove otherwise and set September 2016 as the deadline. After that date, products containing that chemical will be taken off the market. Many companies, including Proctor & Gamble, Johnson and Johnson are redesigning their products in response to the FDA’s query into triclosan.

Indeed, In India, the only way to stop the spread of toxic triclosan is to take it off the market by stop buying them. To guide our visitors to help make India Triclosan Free, here we have listed all the products that contain Triclosan in India. Please avoid using them and stop buying them anymore.

List of Products that contain Triclosan:

  1. Colgate Total Toothpaste (Indian Version)

  2. Cinthol Soap

  3. Chandrika Handwash

  4. Lifebuoy Soap/Handwash

  5. Santoor Deo/Handwash

  6. Dabur Fem Soft Handz

  7. Sach Hand washes

  8. Reliance Externa Soap/Hanswashes

  9. Care Mate Germ Control Hand Wash

  10. Old Spice Classic Deodorant

  11. Savlon Hand wash

*if you know any other product that contains Triclosan, Please comment below…

What’s so Bad about Triclosan?

Triclosan can pass through your skin and is suspected to interfere with hormone function. Specifically, the chemical disturbs thyroid, testosterone, and estrogen regulation, which can create a host of issues including early puberty, poor sperm quality, infertility, obesity, and cancer. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists detected triclosan in the urine of nearly 75 per cent of those tested (2,517 people ages six years and older). Source:

One study of nursing mothers found higher levels of triclosan in blood and breast milk of women who used personal care products containing that chemical. Concerns on the health effects of triclosan have been raised after it was detected in human breast milk, blood, and urine samples. A limited body of research has explored how triclosan affects breast cancer cells.

Of the baby rats whose mothers ingested a higher dosage of triclocarban, none survived longer than 6 days. Only 4 of 30 babies whose mothers were fed a lower dose of triclocarban lived to be weaned at 21 days, the amount of triclocarban in the pregnant rats’ blood corresponded to the amount found in human blood after a 15-minute shower using an antibacterial soap containing 0.6 percent triclocarban. Source:

Triclosan creates the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can lead to complications in treating diseases as well as new evidence that shows prolonged exposure to triclosan in children leads higher chance of developing allergies. At least two million people in the United States fall sick, and about 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections every year.

Studies have revealed that triclosan in soaps reacts with chlorinated water to produce inappropriately high levels of chloroform. Recently scientists have found triclosan in dolphins that swim off the east coast of the United States, which means it’s ‘out there’ everywhere, and moving through the ocean’s food chain.

More about Triclosan:

As for the benefit of triclosan, that actually doesn’t seem to be much. Consumer soaps with triclosan actually aren’t any more effective at preventing infectious illness and reducing bacteria. Evidence does suggest that triclosan in toothpaste may reduce plaque and gum inflammation compared with normal toothpaste.

Simple solutions to avoid Triclosan:

  1. Check for Triclosan or Triclocarban on ingredient list for soaps and other personal care products especially for products labeled anti bacterial, anti-microbial or anti-fungal.
  2. If you use hand sanitizer stick to alcohol-based ones whch are less likely to contain Triclosan.
  3. When looking for Triclosan in plastics & fabrics, its is also labeled as Microban or Biofresh.


WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in “biosolids.” Join the Food Rights Network.

Triclosan, also known as 2,4,4’-Trichloro-2’-hydroxyphenyl ether, is a phenolic diphenol ether, used for over 30 years as a preservative, antibacterial, and antifungal. It was patented and used in medical supplies in 1964 and by 1987 was being used in consumer products.

There have been numerous health concerns linked to triclosan. In December 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposed rule “to require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate that their products are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections.” The proposed rule explicitly references the commonly used triclosan and the related triclocarban (used in bar soaps), because they “could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.” Specifically, the proposed rule cites concern over new findings in animal studies of “a negative effect on both cardiac and skeletal muscle function as a result of a single triclosan treatment”; another study finding that “rats that were exposed to a high dose (3,000 ppm) of triclosan in utero showed lower neonatal survival and lower mean body weights compared to untreated controls”; studies finding “a reduction or absence of spermatozoa, abnormal spermatogenic cells, and partial depletion of one or more generations of germ cells in male testes” in hamsters exposed to a high dose of triclosan; and potential “cross-resistance between antiseptic active ingredients and antibiotics.”

The American Medical Association released a statement in 2012 encouraging “the preferential use of plain soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers in health-care settings.” In April 2010, after prompting from Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), the FDA and EPA announced they would reconsider the safety and usefulness of triclosan. With widespread use of triclosan in personal care products, the Natural Resources Defense Council has called on the U.S. FDA to ban the chemical. In a press release, NRDC Senior Scientist Dr. Sarah Janssen said, “With no proven benefit and many red flags raised for harmful health impacts, the use of these so-called anti-microbials is an unnecessary and stupid use of toxic chemicals.” On July 27, 2010, NRDC filed a lawsuit against the FDA for its failure to finalize a ban on both triclocarban and triclosan, which was first initiated in 1978. The lawsuit covers liquid and bar soaps and body washes. The FDA’s December 2013 proposed rule was issued as a result of a settlement between NRDC and the agency in November 2013.

With its common household use, triclosan makes its way into the wastewater stream and frequently turns up in sewage sludge.


Triclosan is found in clothing, kitchenware, furniture, toys, medical devices, antibacterial soaps and body washes, deodorants, acne medications, mouthwashes, toothpastes, wound disinfection solutions, and cosmetics. Triclosan is found in 75 percent of liquid hand soaps. However, an advisory panel to the FDA found in 2005 that there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than regular soap and water. In April 2013, the FDA amended its page on triclosan to say the following: “At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”

Brands and products containing triclosan include:

Triclosan as a Pollutant

Triclosan enters the environment either via effluent released from wastewater treatment plants or in sewage sludge applied to land. In 1999-2000, triclosan was found in 57.6% of 139 U.S. streams sampled in 30 states. A recent study found that soybeans grown in sewage sludge took up triclosan. Increasingly, triclosan is also found in the bodies of Americans. When triclosan breaks down, it can form small amounts of 2,8-dichlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.

Triclosan Breaks Down Into Dioxins

In Sewage Sludge

2010 Tests of San Francisco Sewage Sludge Find PBDEs, Triclosan

On August 10, 2010, the Food Rights Network announced in a news release that “Independent tests of sewage sludge-derived compost from the Synagro CVC plant — distributed free to gardeners since 2007 by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in their “organic biosolids compost” giveaway program — have found appreciable concentrations of contaminants with endocrine-disruptive properties. The independent tests were conducted for the Food Rights Networkby Dr. Robert C. Hale of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.”

In an August 6, 2010, letter reporting on his findings to the Food Rights Network Robert Hale wrote: “A sewage sludge-derived compost from the Synagro CVC plant, distributed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in their “compost give away” program, was analyzed for synthetic pollutants. Several classes of emerging contaminants with endocrine disruptive properties were detected in appreciable concentrations, including polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants, nonylphenols (NPs) detergent breakdown products and the antibacterial agent triclosan.” PDFs are attached here of the letter and the data:

Plant Uptake of Triclosan

A study by researchers at the University of Toledo examined the uptake of three pharmaceuticals, carbamazepine, diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and fluoxetine (Prozac), and two personal care products, triclosan and triclocarban, by soybean plants. The plants were grown in “treatments simulating biosolids application and wastewater irrigation.” The plants were then examined after growing for 60 and 110 days. The plants concentrated carbamazepine, triclosan, and triclocarban in their roots but the three chemicals were found translocated in the above ground parts of the plants, including the beans. Concentrations were higher in the plants grown in simulated biosolids, or sewage sludge.

Human Exposure and Health Effects

Humans are exposed to triclosan through the many consumer products containing it and possibly by ingesting food grown in fields fertilized with contaminated sewage sludge After use of toothpaste containing triclosan, triclosan can remain present in human saliva for several hours. Triclosan can also be absorbed by the skin into the blood stream. In studies, it is excreted, primarily as unchanged triclosan, over several days in the feces and urine. The CDC found a significant increase in urinary triclosan levels between studies complete in 2003-04 and 2005-06. The mean level of urinary triclosan increased from 13.0 micrograms per liter in 2003-04 to 18.5 micrograms per liter in 2005-06. This represents a 42.3% increase. Measured as micrograms per gram of creatinine, mean urinary triclosan increased from 12.7 in 2003-04 to 18.0 in 2005-06, a 41.7 percent increase.

Triclosan is a suspected endocrine disruptor. In 2009, the Endocrine Society released a statement advising pregnant women and small children to avoid triclosan if possible, as developing organs are at a higher risk to be effected by the chemical. The society commented, “even if some health effects are not fully proven scientifically, taking precautions is wise.” In 2012, Johnson & Johnson stated the removal of triclosan from their beauty and baby products to address the growing concerns of clients.

In animal tests, triclosan interferes with thyroid hormone (serum total thyroxine), which is critical for normal growth and brain development, as well as male and female sex hormones, which are necessary for the normal growth and function of the reproductive system. One study found that triclosan decreased sperm count, damaged the male reproductive system, and disrupted male hormone production in rats. Scientists fear that it may have the same effects on humans because humans have similar hormone systems as animals. Additionally, is concern that overuse of triclosan promotes antibiotic resistance among bacterial.

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

  • Triclocarban
  • Biosolids
  • Sewage sludge
  • Food Rights Network

External Resources

External Articles

  1. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Accessed August 5, 2010
  2. Janet Raloff”A new source of dioxins: Clean hands”, Science News, May 18, 2010, Accessed August 9, 2010.
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA issues proposed rule to determine safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps, federal governmental agency press release, December 16, 2013.
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Safety and Effectiveness of Consumer Antiseptics; Topical Antimicrobial Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use; Proposed Amendment of the Tentative Final Monograph; Reopening of Administrative Record, Federal Register, federal agency proposed rule, proposed December 17, 2013.
  5. Sandy Bauers, “GreenSpace: Problems with a key hand-cleansing chemical,” Philadelphia Inquirer”, June 9, 2013.
  6. Lyndsey Layton, “FDA says studies on triclosan, used in sanitizers and soaps, raise concerns”, Washington Post, April 8, 2010, Accessed August 6, 2010
  7. Dr. Sarah Janssen, Press Release: “Triclosan Exposure Levels Increasing in Humans, New Data Shows Potential for Food Contamination”, Natural Resources Defense Council, August 5, 2010, Accessed August 5, 2010
  8. Natural Resources Defense Council, Press Release: “Lawsuit Seeks Final Rule on ‘Antibacterial’ Chemicals After 32-Year Delay”, July 27, 2010, Accessed August 6, 2010
  9. Kaye Spector, Lawsuit Forces FDA to Finally Enforce Removal of Endocrine Disruptor Triclosan From Soaps, EcoWatch, November 24, 2013.
  10. Natural Resources Defense Council, Dangerous Chemical in Soaps and Toothpaste Facing Closer Scrutiny, organizational press release, December 16, 2013.
  11. U.S. FDA, Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know, Accessed August 5, 2010
  12. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Accessed August 5, 2010
  13. Paul McRandle, Antibacterials Q&A: Dr. Sarah Janssen on the Hazards of Hormone Disrupting Hand Cleaners, Natural Resources Defense Council, April 1, 2010, Accessed August 6, 2010
  14. Lyndsey Layton, “FDA says studies on triclosan, used in sanitizers and soaps, raise concerns”, Washington Post, April 8, 2010, Accessed August 6, 2010
  15. U.S. FDA, Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know, Accessed June 27, 2013
  16. U.S. FDA, “FDA Provides Information to Consumers about the Ingredient Triclosan”, April 8, 2010, Accessed August 6, 2010
  17. Natural Resources Defense Council, “FDA Acknowledges Potential Harmful Effects of Antibacterial Chemicals”, April 8, 2010, Accessed August 6, 2010
  18. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Household Products Database
  19. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Accessed August 5, 2010
  20. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Accessed August 5, 2010
  21. Chenxi Wu, Alison L. Spongberg, Jason D. Witter, Min Fang, and Kevin P. Czajkowski, “Uptake of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products by Soybean Plants from Soils Applied with Biosolids and Irrigated with Contaminated Water”, Environmental Science and Technology, July 21, 2010, Accessed August 5, 2010
  22. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Accessed August 5, 2010
  23. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals
  24. Jeffrey M. Buth, Peter O. Steen, Charles Sueper, Dylan Blumentritt, Peter J. Vikesland, William A. Arnold and Kristopher McNeill, “Dioxin Photoproducts of Triclosan and Its Chlorinated Derivatives in Sediment Cores”, Environmental Science & Technology, May 17, 2010, Accessed August 9, 2010.
  25. “Rising Levels of Dioxins from Common Soap Ingredient in Mississippi River, Study Finds”, Science Daily, May 25, 2010, Accessed August 9, 2010.
  26. Janet Raloff”A new source of dioxins: Clean hands”, Science News, May 18, 2010, Accessed August 9, 2010.
  27. Hale Letter 8/6/10
  28. Hale Data NP
  29. Hale Data PAH
  30. Hale Data PBDE
  31. Chenxi Wu, Alison L. Spongberg, Jason D. Witter, Min Fang, and Kevin P. Czajkowski, “Uptake of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products by Soybean Plants from Soils Applied with Biosolids and Irrigated with Contaminated Water”, Environmental Science and Technology, July 21, 2010, Accessed August 5, 2010
  32. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Accessed August 5, 2010
  33. Chenxi Wu, Alison L. Spongberg, Jason D. Witter, Min Fang, and Kevin P. Czajkowski, “Uptake of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products by Soybean Plants from Soils Applied with Biosolids and Irrigated with Contaminated Water”, Environmental Science and Technology, July 21, 2010, Accessed August 5, 2010
  34. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Accessed August 5, 2010
  35. Centers for Disease Control, Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals: Updated Tables, Accessed August 5, 2010
  36. Sandy Bauers, “,” Philadelphia Inquirer”, June 9, 2013.
  37. Sandy Bauers, “,” Philadelphia Inquirer”, June 9, 2013.
  38. Kevin M. Crofton, Katie B. Paul, Michael J. DeVito, Joan M. Hedge, “Short-term in vivo exposure to the water contaminant triclosan: Evidence for disruption of thyroxine,” Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology 24 (2007) 194–197
  39. Leah M. Zorrilla, Emily K. Gibson, Susan C. Jeffay, Kevin M. Crofton, Woodrow R. Setzer, Ralph L. Cooper, and Tammy E. Stoker, “The Effects of Triclosan on Puberty and Thyroid Hormones in Male Wistar Rats,” Toxicological Sciences, October 21, 2008
  40. Kumar V, Chakraborty A, Kural MR, Roy P., “Alteration of testicular steroidogenesis and histopathology of reproductive system in male rats treated with triclosan,” Reproductive Toxicology, April 27, 2009
  41. Natural Resources Defense Council, “Not Effective and Not Safe: The FDA Must Regulate Dangerous Antimicrobials in Everyday Products Facts,” April 2010
  42. Yazdankhah, S. P., A. A. Scheie, et al. (2006). “Triclosan and Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacteria: An Overview.” Microbial Drug Resistance 12(2): 83-90.

In case you don’t know, many hand soaps, toothpastes, body bars, etc. that say “antibacterial” are made with triclosan, a powerful bacteria killing chemical (actually registered as a pesticide with the EPA).

Triclosan can cause drug resistant bacteria, kill wildlife and is being investigated for serious health risks after continuous long term use (such as washing your hands and brushing your teeth with triclosan-containing products every day).

Foaming Soap without Triclosan

CleanWell Foaming Hand Soap

These CleanWell foaming soaps come in a variety of scents created by botanicals, such as Spearmint Lime or Orange Vanilla. The non-harsh soaps won’t dry out your hands. But they’re tough on killing germs.

Branch Basics

You might have heard about Branch Basics, one of the best and most effective green cleaning concentrates there is. Powered by plants and minerals, this one concentrate can do a LOT of things in your home. Including an excellent hand soap.

When you order a Branch Basics starter kit, you’ll get a foaming hand soap dispenser. Just add a little bit of the concentrate with water and you’ll instantly have a safe hand soap. PLUS, you can use the concentrate as a laundry detergent, all purpose cleaner, window cleaner, dish detergent and more.

Get $10 off your first order with my .

Liquid Soap without Triclosan

Seventh Generation

I’ve been a big fan of Seventh Generation for well over a decade. And their products don’t disappoint.

We’ve recently tried a few varieties of Seventh Generation liquid hand soap. I prefer the free and clean fragrance free soap. However, the Hibiscus and Cardamom scent was very light and not overpowering at all.

Triclosan Alternative Soaps

On December 19, 2017, the U.S. FDA issued the long expected final rule for “Safety and Effectiveness of Healthcare Antiseptics; Topical Antimicrobial Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use” in the Federal Register.

In this rule, FDA determined that in addition to several other antiseptic active ingredients, Triclosan, a widely used antiseptic agent, must be phased out of Over-the-Counter antiseptic wash products for healthcare applications due to a lack of sufficient safety and efficacy data.

In anticipation of the FDA making such a ruling on Triclosan, DebMed developed several new antimicrobial and routine soaps to replace Triclosan soaps. These formulas have been very well accepted by users, are mild to the skin and more effective than our well-known Triclosan soaps. To learn more about the FDA Ruling please visit:

DebMed is committed to helping you make the right decision for your facility, and will help to make the transition to a Triclsoan free soap quick and easy. We offer a variety of products that meet the needs of healthcare workers and have been formulated for high frequency use.

We all know the importance of washing our hands regularly. According to the Center for Disease Control, we can prevent several illnesses and diseases and stop the spread of germs to others simply by washing our hands with clean soap and water. While studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have revealed that antibacterial soap is no more effective than plain soap and water – which resulted in an order to remove antibacterials in consumer soaps – there are still several ingredients you might want to avoid.

Ingredients like parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are both common chemical ingredients in conventional household soaps that may actually be harmful to us.


Parabens are preservatives added to many personal care products meant to prevent the growth of bacteria and prolong shelf life. One study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that exposure to parabens may lead to increased levels of estrogen in the human body and potentially increase the risk of cancer. When choosing products, look out for ingredients like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.

SLS is a cleansing and emulsifying agent that is added to many personal care products to make them foam. In spite of being present in so many ingredients, nearly 16,000 studies mention its toxicity. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews, SLS can lead to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes, and possible mutations and cancer. Look out for labels with ingredients like sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me, or aquarex methyl.

Not only are parabens and SLS toxic to us, they are toxic to our environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists personal care products as one of the major pollutants that make their way into the environment via household drains. Although water that leaves our homes gets filtered through water treatment plants, chemicals like parabens and SLS persist and end up being filtered back into surface and ground water. Chemicals from personal care products that end up in the water fish and other marine animals live in and can potentially cause endocrine system disruption, which can lead to reproductive and behavioral disorders, a compromised immune system, neurological problems, and cancer. This also doesn’t spell good news for people who the consume fish.

So, now that you know the dangers lurking in many hand soaps, what can you do? There is always the option to make your own hand soap, but that is not convenient for everyone. Luckily, there are brands out there that are dedicated to making safer, more environmentally-friendly hand soaps. The soaps below are just 10 options you can find.


An antibacterial chemical found in thousands of consumer products can harm the guts of mice, according to a new study, raising concerns that it might be making people sick.

Triclosan is a popular additive in many consumer products because it kills bacteria. Since the 1950s, it’s been added to hand sanitizers, toothpastes, cookware, gardening tools, clothes, toys, furniture, and even some baby teething products.

In the last decade, the chemical has permeated the broader environment as well in tiny amounts. It’s been found in household dust and in US streams and rivers. It’s also in people: By 2003, an estimated 75% of the US population carried it around in detectable amounts, according to the CDC.

A raft of studies has suggested that triclosan has unintended effects beyond its antimicrobial properties. For instance, it can make some bacteria grow stronger and harder to kill. Scientists suspect it may also tamper with the immune system, certain hormones, and fertility.

In 2016, the FDA banned triclosan in hand and body washes, explaining that there was not enough evidence that triclosan was safe to use or that washing with regular soap and water was any worse.

The new work, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, shows how the chemical can wreak havoc with the community of bacteria — the “microbiome” — found in the mouse gut, just as the chemical changes the microbiome of fish and rats.

Mice were fed water containing triclosan for three weeks and then compared to a group that hadn’t eaten the chemical. The goal was to mirror in mice the blood triclosan levels of people who had used toothpaste containing the chemical for 14 days.

In mice that drank the triclosan-laced water, the scientists found inflammation of the colon akin to that seen in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition diagnosed in 3 million Americans in 2015. They also showed that mice that already had colon cancer showed a more aggressive form of the disease — with more and larger tumors — when they consumed triclosan.

Gut bacteria, the study found, were key to activating these effects: Mice bred to lack gut bacteria didn’t show any inflammation even when they were exposed to triclosan.

“We have very strong data to confirm that gut bacteria is the mechanism to link triclosan exposure to colon inflammation,” Guodong Zhang, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who led the study, told BuzzFeed News.

The new paper adds to mounting evidence that triclosan is not safe. Although it’s too soon to know whether it has the same effects on the human gut, the study makes the case for examining its link to IBD and colon cancer in people.

“I think it’s an opportunity to point out that people should be careful,” Rolf Halden, director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering, who was not involved with the study, told BuzzFeed News. Last year, Halden led a group of 200 scientists to publish a statement asking international regulators to ban the chemical in consumer products.

The latest study caps off decades of research listing possible dangers of triclosan exposure in animals and people. Scientists have shown it can cause liver damage in mice, for example, mess with hormones in rats, and alter the microbiomes of fish.

It’s been harder to pinpoint whether triclosan at low doses can cause harm in people. Scientists expect it can interact with many biological systems in complex ways, possibly over many years, making its footprint hard to map. Last year, researchers followed 39 new mothers and their infants for 10 months and found higher levels of an antibacterial-resistant species in the guts of participants who used products with triclosan.

Regulation of the chemical falls on both the FDA and the EPA. (The EPA regulates the compound when it is used as a germ killer on furniture or products that don’t make health claims relevant to people.)

The FDA proposed banning the chemical in consumer products as early as 1978 but never finalized that rule. In 2010, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the FDA to move forward with its intended action, resulting in a settlement and the issuance of its first rules in 2016.

“Triclosan is interacting with the microbiome in a way that is leading to inflammatory bowel disease,” Kristi Pullen Fedinick, a scientist at the NRDC told BuzzFeed News. “They’ve really gotten close to if not landed on the causal link.” She described the new evidence on colon cancer as “the tip of the iceberg.”

The FDA’s ban to excise the chemical from hospital antiseptics will take effect at the end of the year, and the agency intends to ban it from hand sanitizers by 2019.

Some doctors already recommend avoiding products containing the compound.

“Both the FDA ban and this new study indicate that consumers best steer clear of unnecessary and potentially risky antimicrobials unless they are specifically recommended for use by their physicians and dentists,” Halden said.

Does the product contain triclosan? On over-the-counter drug products, read the ingredients on the Drug Facts label. On cosmetics, read the list of ingredients.

What Is Triclosan?

Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products intended to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It is added to some antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics—products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It also can be found in clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys—products not regulated by the FDA.

How Safe Is Triclosan?

Some short-term animal studies have shown that exposure to high doses of triclosan is associated with a decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones. But we don’t know the significance of those findings to human health. Other studies have raised the possibility that exposure to triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. At this time, we don’t have enough information available to assess the level of risk that triclosan poses for the development of antibiotic resistance.

There are other ongoing studies that involve the safety of triclosan. One is a study investigating the potential of developing skin cancer after a long-term exposure to triclosan in animals. Another is a study on the potential breakdown of triclosan to other chemicals on human skin after exposure to triclosan to ultraviolet (UV) rays. At this time, neither study has been completed.

Are There Benefits of Triclosan?

For some consumer products, there is evidence that triclosan provides a benefit. In 1997, FDA reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence showed that triclosan in that product was effective in preventing gingivitis.

For other products, such as over-the-counter (OTC) consumer antiseptic products, FDA has not received evidence that triclosan provides a benefit to human health. At this time, FDA doesn’t have evidence that triclosan in OTC consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.

In December 2017, the FDA issued a final rule regarding certain OTC health-care antiseptic products. As a result, companies will not be able to use triclosan or 23 other active ingredients in these products without premarket review due to insufficient data regarding their safety and effectiveness. The FDA recently issued a final rule on OTC hand sanitizers and will continue to review the three active ingredients commonly used in hand sanitizers.

How Can I Tell if There Is Triclosan in a Product?

Antibacterial soaps and body washes, and fluoride toothpastes are considered OTC drugs. If an OTC drug contains triclosan, it should be listed as an ingredient on the label, in the Drug Facts box. If a cosmetic contains triclosan, it should be included in the ingredient list on the product label.

What Is FDA Doing to Evaluate the Safety of Triclosan?

FDA has been reviewing safety and effectiveness data on triclosan in the agency’s OTC antiseptic rulemakings. FDA will also continue to monitor and follow the scientific literature available for the safety and effectiveness of triclosan.

For more information on consumer antiseptic washes, see the final rule.

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Chemical in soaps, hand sanitizers tied to osteoporosis

Women exposed to triclosan, a chemical often found in soaps and hand sanitizers, may be more likely to develop osteoporosis than women who don’t have this exposure, a new study suggests.

Triclosan has been widely used for years as an antimicrobial agent in consumer goods and personal care products including soaps, hand sanitizers, toothpaste and mouthwash, researchers note in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

While the exact effect of the chemical on human health isn’t clear, some previous research suggests that triclosan may interfere with thyroid and reproductive hormones.

Triclosan has also been shown to impact bone health in animals, but less is known about the potential for this chemical to contribute to weak, brittle bones in people, said Yingjun Li of Hangzhou Medical College School of Public Health in China.

For the current study, Li and colleagues examined data on 1,848 women in the U.S. and found that those with the highest levels of triclosan in their urine were two and a half times as likely to have osteoporosis as women with the lowest triclosan levels.

“Triclosan exposure may be a risk factor for lower bone mineral density and osteoporosis,” Li said by email. “The evidence was stronger in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women.”

In women, reduced estrogen production during menopause and afterward can slow production of new bone tissues. Over time, this process increases their risk of osteoporosis.

About 30 percent of postmenopausal women in the U.S. have osteoporosis, and four in 10 of them will experience a bone fracture, the authors note.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how triclosan might directly cause osteoporosis.

But it’s possible that triclosan exposure could trigger changes in the production of thyroid hormones and estrogen that interrupt normal skeletal development and maintenance of healthy bones as women age, Li said.

“Triclosan could lead to lower bone mineral density and increased prevalence of osteoporosis,” Li said.

Even though more research is needed to prove whether triclosan directly causes osteoporosis, it still makes sense to avoid using products that contain the chemical, said Luz Claudio, an environmental medicine and public health researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“Luckily, triclosan is rapidly excreted from the body after exposure, so in theory, it should be possible to reduce the amount of it we have on our bodies by avoiding continuous exposure,” Claudio, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“People who are concerned can avoid products that contain triclosan by reading the labels,” Claudio advised.

Washing with regular soap and water, for example, can help fight germs just as well as using antibacterial cleaning products and avoid exposure to triclosan, Claudio said.

But consumers do need to read the labels because triclosan is in a lot of cosmetics and personal care items that aren’t necessarily marketed as antibacterial products.

“If a product contains triclosan, this should be listed on the label,” Claudio said.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, online June 25, 2019.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Illustration: Greg Clarke

To hear the industry tell it, anti-microbial soaps are humanity’s last best option in a war against germs that lurk everywhere. On a site called Fight Germs Now—”the official source on anti-bacterial hygiene products”—the American Cleaning Institute sings their praises, warning that “sometimes plain soap and water is not good enough.” The fast-growing market for anti-bacterials—most of which rely on an active ingredient called triclosan—is estimated at $1 billion. Triclosan is also in items such as socks, yoga mats, cutting boards, ice cream scoops, and pencils. No wonder the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that it’s present in the urine of three-quarters of Americans.

But on December 16, the FDA issued a proposed rule that would require companies to provide “more substantial data to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps” before selling these products. The move is in response to the mounting evidence that triclosan might not be as effective as manufacturers claim. Bill Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, points out that triclosan soap products are useless when it comes to most seasonal infections: They target bacteria, not the viruses that cause colds and flus. And they don’t work any better on bacteria than standard soap—which also gets rid of viruses. In a 2008 review in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers scrutinized hundreds of hand hygiene studies and found “little evidence” that anything beat regular washing in reducing the symptoms associated with infectious gastrointestinal or respiratory illnesses.

Over the past 15 years, the FDA has approved just 15 new antibiotics—in the preceding 15 years, it approved 40.

Not only that, but there is strong evidence that anti-bacterial soaps contribute to antibiotic resistance. In 2004, a team of University of Michigan researchers found that exposing bacteria to triclosan increased activity in cellular pumps that the bugs use to eliminate foreign substances. These overactive excretory systems “could act to pump out other antibiotics, as well,” says Stuart Levy, one of the study’s authors and a leading researcher on antibiotic resistance at the Tufts University School of Medicine. That’s a problem, since troublesome bacteria like streptococcus, staphylococcus, and pneumonia are already evolving defenses against our best weapons. Worse, there aren’t enough new drugs in the production pipeline. Over the past 15 years, the FDA has approved just 15 new antibiotics—in the preceding 15 years, it approved 40. The World Health Organization now views antibiotic resistance as “a threat to global health security.” And while triclosan’s contribution to the problem hasn’t been adequately studied, Levy believes it could be “significant.”

Triclosan also gets into waterways, where it could harm aquatic life. A 2013 Loyola University simulation found that the chemical caused “dramatic” algae die-offs and altered the natural composition of bacteria in streams—a potential problem for higher species, including vulnerable frogs and salamanders. Other recent studies have found that triclosan disrupts hormone production in lab animals.

The public health implications of triclosan led the European Union to ban it in 2010 from any product that might come into contact with food. Two years later, Johnson & Johnson pledged to phase it out entirely. The Food and Drug Administration was supposed to deliver a ruling on the chemical’s safety in 2012, but it still hasn’t completed its review. Meanwhile, with traces of the stuff showing up in Minnesota lakes, lawmakers there are pushing what would be the nation’s first triclosan ban.

After learning about all of this, I was worried I might have to abandon my habit of squirting Purell all over my hands every time I get off the subway. But there’s no triclosan in Purell. In fact, most hand sanitizers rely on alcohol, which slays germs on contact instead of killing some and just weakening others, as the anti-bacterials do. Vanderbilt’s Schaffner assures me that alcohol-based hand sanitizers “will absolutely not contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance, since they are not antibiotics.”

Elaine Larson, an associate dean for research at Columbia University’s School of Nursing who has led dozens of studies on hand hygiene, argues that sanitizers can be more effective than soap and water, whose efficacy in removing germs depends on how thoroughly you wash. “If I wanted to clean my hands fast, I would use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” Larson says. The CDC agrees: In its guidelines for health care workers, it notes that “alcohol-based solutions were more effective than washing hands with plain soap in all studies.”

Note, though, that alcohol doesn’t remove actual dirt—which is why the CDC recommends regular soap and water as the best all-around option outside hospital settings. And hand sanitizer won’t work against the stomach bug norovirus or the armored spores of C. difficile, a serious and sometimes life-threatening infection most often found in hospitals: “You literally have to wash the spores off your hands and flush them down the sink,” Schaffner says. But for virtually all other germs, alcohol is very effective. “During flu season I am in favor of abundant use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers,” he says.

So if you’re a germophobe like me, it doesn’t hurt to grab a bottle of Purell for the road, but you might consider ditching those anti-bacterials. Contrary to industry spin, most of the time, plain old soap and water is good enough.

Researchers Say That Triclosan In Hand Sanitizers Can Cause Colon Problems


Most consumers believe that toothpaste and hand sanitizers were always safe to use, but a chemical in those products might actually be pretty harmful.

The Problem With Too Much Triclosan

A new study has revealed that triclosan can cause massive damage to the microbiomes located in the colon. Previously, scientists have known about some potential dangers from this substance.

The findings were published in a study on May 30 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“These results, for the first time, suggest that triclosan could have adverse effects on gut health,” said study coauthor Guodong Zhang.

Even a small concentration of triclosan can cause a low-grade colon inflammation, which can result in the development of colitis.

For decades, triclosan was used in popular household products such as hand sanitizers, toys, furniture, toothpaste, and consumer cleaning products. The chemical is good at destroying bacteria.

As a result of the spread of the chemical, it has permeated houses and public water systems. One study found that 75 percent of the population had been in contact with it.

By 2016, the FDA banned it from certain products such as hand sanitizers because it was discovered that it might also be harmful to people.

How Researchers Studied Mice To Learn About Triclosan

To find these results, researchers gave mice water with triclosan in it. They also gave water without triclosan to another group of mice.

After just three weeks of this experiment, the scientists discovered that the mice who drank triclosan had inflammation of the colon. It also worsened colon cancer by increasing the size of the tumors, for those mice that already had it.

“We have very strong data to confirm that gut bacteria is the mechanism to link triclosan exposure to colon inflammation,” Zhang told BuzzFeed News.

The researchers believe that the chemical reduced the diversity of the microbiomes in the gut. This, in turn, made the mice more susceptible to these colon diseases.

Future Implications For Triclosan

Although this study seems pretty simple to understand, researchers are still debating if there is an acceptable amount of triclosan that people can take before they are in danger. The researchers strongly suggest that there be more studies about the exposure to triclosan before the FDA takes further action against the chemical with more regulations. It is a very complex chemical to figure out on a large scale.

Meanwhile, consumers should probably stay away from it. If a consumer sees that their product contains triclosan, then it should be disposed of.

Liz West | Flickr

Why I’m Breaking Up With Hand Sanitizer

“I’ll give up my hand sanitizer when they pry it from my cold, dead — and probably diseased — fingers.” That used to be my mantra, and who can blame me? I came to this germanoia honestly. Years ago I had to undergo chemotherapy, the consequences of which leaves your immune system punch drunk, because infection-fighting white blood cells get clobbered in the process. “Don’t get sick,” my oncologist advised. “That would be a bad thing.” It was good advice from a really terrific doctor, but for the minor issue that I was, in fact, already pretty sick. Nevertheless, if I had been sanitation conscious before, I had now become crazy about it.

In the country of the lemonade cleanse and the low-carb diet, trend surfing is our standard approach to better health, whether we’re sick or not. But not in the case of antimicrobials and the million other bacteria-zapping products that have now come into general use. Having identified bacteria as Dirt Vader, we have as a nation come to believe that the only good microbe is a dead microbe, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.

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But that zeal is hurting us. According a recent World Health Organization report, our obsession with germ killing has resulted in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in every corner of the globe, thanks in part to our willy-nilly use of wide-spectrum antibiotics and, yes, our love of hand sanitizer. But we’re not even the main problem. In the U.S. the overuse of antibiotics in farming to prevent animals from getting sick and to fatten them up is also widely fingered as the No. 1 source of drug-resistant bacteria. And every year, 2 million Americans get infections not treatable with antibiotics — and 23,000 of them die. The animals get slaughtered, but we get sick.

Last December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put the antimicrobial army on notice, informing the makers of antimicrobial soaps that they will have to prove that their products work better than soap and water. Consumers have been urged to resist overusing antimicrobials and more ominously, FDA also warned that triclosan, a synthetic compound found in soaps, deodorants, even toothpaste, may have health issues of its own. “Some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects,” the FDA stated.

But, it’s icky out there. Do you really expect me to drop my first line of defense against incipient ickyness? In my office building in Manhattan, hand-sanitizing stations stand guard on every floor. On the buses and in the subway system across New York City you see clip-on bottles of hand sanitizers attached to backpacks. The subways may be crawling with rats and other vermin, but it’s germs that really freak people out. Eight million people. Eight bazillion microbes with my name on them. You expect me to attack that with plain old soap and water?

And you tell me now that by using products that kill these bugs I’m becoming a conspirator in the Bacterial Resistance League? America has long been a sanitation nation, a quality sometimes attributed to immigrants who left behind the squalor in their homelands (and sometimes rediscovered it here) and imbued their children with the sense that cleanliness is next to godliness, or at least American-ness. Over the past couple of decades, consumer-products companies have found a target rich market in exploiting this history of germ aversion. They have launched wave after wave of microbe-seeking toilet-bowl cleaners, dish detergents, mouthwashes and, no doubt, floor polishes.

And yet the news from FDA and WHO is sobering. The germs are winning — and that’s actually why I should throw down my weapon.

This is not going to be easy for someone who is afraid to sit in a movie theater, who wipes the tops of soda cans with the inside of his T-shirt, who would have no trouble saying no to the bowl of delicious jellybeans on the conference-room table. But despite a world that is filthy with microbes, I will disarm like the health officials suggest, at the same time keeping in mind what Ronald Reagan said: Trust but verify.

One sniffle, though, and I’m reloading.

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