A few writers have expressed concern about the safety of triclosan, a potent wide-spectrum antibacterial and antifungal chemical that is added to many household products. One study concluded that triclosan acts as a hormone disrupter in North American bullfrogs. The Environmental Working Group has claimed that triclosan may cause cancer; however, EPA has disputed this claim. Nevertheless, EPA has apparently acknowledged that triclosan can interfere with thyroid hormones. According to a study by Margaret James at the University of Florida, triclosan interferes with estrogen in women and can disrupt a vital enzyme during pregnancy.
How prevalent is triclosan in our bodies? The US Center for Disease Control in 2010 published results of human blood tests: they found levels of triclosan of 18 to 500 ppb – comparable to the body’s normal blood level of 10 to 200 ppb of the thyroid hormone thyroxine! Not an omen for good health.
Triclosan is reportedly found in soaps, deodorants, shaving creams, toothpastes, and mouthwashes. Since the USDA and EPA regulate triclosan, products containing it must say so on the label. I checked labels of many of these products in the local supermarket and found that of soaps, only “antibacterial” labeled soaps contained triclosan; no mouthwashes contained it; a few toothpastes contained it; and some deodorants and shaving creams contained it. It is easy to avoid products with triclosan if one is concerned about its safety.
You may ask, Is it sensible to use antimicrobials such as triclosan to make our bodies free of bacteria? There are two answers. The American Medical Association declared that antibacterial soap offers no cleansing benefit over regular soap. A 2007 review in Clinical Infectious Diseases determined that using antibacterial soap did not reduce the amount of bacteria on a person’s hands, nor did it prevent symptoms like cough, diarrhea, or skin infections. Two, bacteria on and in our bodies outnumber all the cells of our bodies by a factor or 10, and most of them are benign or essential to health. Trying to kill all them is futile and off the mark.
Common sense and the Precautionary Principle should tell us to avoid the use of antimicrobial substances, like triclosan, in household products.