Toxic Free NC Tip of the Week: Triclosan

Secret pesticides in your hand soap.

February, 11, 2009, by Billie Karel

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Ever wonder what makes “antibacterial soap” antibacterial? Since the 1960’s, triclosan is often the active ingredient, working to keep you healthy and safe.

Or is it?

Triclosan is actually a pesticide that should be handled as the dangerous chemical it is. And yet, it can be found in all kinds of consumer products, like:
- cosmetics
- toys
- toothpaste
- plastic utensils
- deodorant
- shoes
- mops
- kitchen accessories
- bedding
- mattresses
- food storage containers
- sponges
- phones

According to the CDC, triclosan exposure can, over time, interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism, which could cause hypothermic effects and central nervous system depression. Bad news. It’s also on a short list of chemicals suspected of contributing to rising rates of autism in the US. Research has also shown that triclosan is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance because it is so overused.

For more detail on how the stuff affects our health and the environment, check out Toxic Free NC’s blog post about it.

If you’re looking for strategies to remove this chemical from your life, here’s a “cheatsheet” from Environmental Working Group. It’s a lot of information to digest, but there are two main changes you can make quickly and easily that will help a lot:

1) Wash your hands with good old fashioned soap and water. The FDA says it’s just as effective.

2) Read ingredient labels for soaps and cosmetics.
Don’t buy stuff that lists triclosan or the closely-related triclocarban.

No matter what type of soap you use, most germs are removed from your hands by the simple act of wiping them off. Soap and water help a lot, but you don’t need to go beyond that. If the germies are already off your hands and down the drain, does it really matter if they’re also dead?

(Post adapted from one by Toxic Free NC volunteer, Amy Frietag.)

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