Photo by the Italian voice
When you were looking at the ingredients in your personal care products, did you look at your hand soap? How about your toothpaste? Did you find the ingredient Triclosan?
I was shocked when I looked at the back of my Colgate Total and there was Triclosan. I mean really, in my toothpaste? Hopefully the products you use don’t contain Triclosan, but if they do, I hope you will read and consider this carefully.
We haven’t used antibacterial soap or cleaners in our house for a while. And not because I knew about the negative impact of them, mostly just because we used plain soap and homemade cleaners.
Then, I was reading over at Kitchen Stewardship about Triclosan, and after doing a little more of my own research, I am now committed to not using antibacterial and also feel that I need to spread the word to others.
Seven years ago only a handful of “antibacterial” products were marketed for household use. Now, there are over 700 products on the market that contain Triclosan.1
And it seems like our culture is more germ-a-phobe than ever. Did your family use antibacterial soap and cleaners when you were growing up? Mine didn’t, and we never got e-coli or any other dangerous bacterial disease. It seems that the antibacterial movement is a marketing gimmick to get people to think that they need special soap and cleaners to kill germs and clean their hands and their homes.
The main ingredient in most antibacterial products is Triclosan. Triclosan is actually a pesticide and is used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent. I’m no expert on Triclosan, but here’s some of the main points I have gathered from my reading.
1. Plain soap, water, and good old scrubbing has been shown to be just as effective for killing germs and decreasing the spread of infection, according to the FDA. In fact, since 2002, the American Medical Association has recommended that Triclosan not be used in the home because it could actually encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
2. Antibacterial products cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria, they kill both. There are actually bacteria that are good for us, also known as “pro-biotics”, they can help our digestive system, and help keep us healthy. Triclosan kills these good bacteria right along with the bad.
3. There are some bacteria that are not killed off by antibacterial products, and these bacteria can then reproduce and proliferate, creating “super bugs” that are resistant to Triclosan and possibly other antibacterial agents.
4. Most illnesses, like colds and flu, that we are trying to avoid, are viruses anyway and an antibacterial product would have no different effect on them than non-antibacterial. Again, washing hands with plain soap and water is effective in keeping germs at bay.
5. When we use antibacterial products to wash our hands or clean our homes we are releasing Triclosan out into the environment where it is killing off good and bad bacteria, and possibly creating “super bugs” – see # 3
6. Triclosan has been found in newborn babies and also in human breast milk. As a mama to a young nursing baby, this is alarming to me. But, because waste water treatment plants cannot completely remove Triclosan from our water it ends up in our rivers, lakes and sources for drinking water. Water that we as pregnant and nursing mothers drink, and then is passed on to our babies.
7. Triclosan is toxic to aquatic wildlife. So, the fact that it is in our rivers and lakes means that it is polluting and affecting those ecosystems, and the plant and animal life found there.
8. There have not been enough studies done on the effects of Triclosan on the body, especially the bodies of young children and babies. And our children are being exposed to Triclosan through sources beyond just antibacterial soap. As a mother of two young children the concerns me.
9. The number and type of products that include Triclosan is staggering. Take a look at your toothpaste, deodorant, face soap, even lotion. Also, it is used in household products such as shower curtains, plastic food containers, and even mattresses.
10. In animal studies, Triclosan has been linked to cancer, developmental defects, liver and inhalation toxicity, as well as affecting thyroid function. And when Triclosan interacts with other chemicals, it can form other toxic compounds such as chloroform, a possible carcinogen, as well as dioxin, which is known as one of the most toxic compounds.
It’s kind of ironic to me that people have become so concerned about buying organic in order to avoid pesticides in produce and other foods, but yet the use of the pesticide Triclosan is so widespread in all of our antibacterial products.
For me, it comes down to this. It has been shown that antibacterial products are no more effective than plain soap and water, and the negative effects of triclosan on our bodies and the environment are just beginning to be tested and understood.
We know that plain soap and water will kill germs and help to keep us from getting sick. We know that Triclosan kills good and bad bacteria and allows some bacteria to escape unharmed and possibly stronger. We don’t know what effects Triclosan will have in the long term on our health, our environment, our water, the diseases we are trying to avoid, etc.
So, for our family, we’ll stick to using what we know works, and we will avoid what we know is not any more effective, and may actually be very harmful in very many ways.
Please join me in taking the step to stop using triclosan in your home. Some ways you can make the change:
*Use plain soap. This one is a little bit hard because antibacterial soap is so prevalent. Look for soap that does not say “antibacterial”. We have been using Method soap for a while that is triclosan free, and really like it. Read the label before you buy any soap.
*Make your own dishwasher detergent. Or, make sure you check the back of your bottle and find one that is free from Triclosan.
*Use natural dishwashing liquid soap. Again, one that is Triclosan free. We use, and really like, Seventh Generation dishwashing soap.
*Check your other personal care products like toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, face soap, etc. and commit to finding a brand that works for you that is triclosan free. I have since switched to using Jason brand toothpaste after I found Triclosan in my Colgate toothpaste.
*Also, check your cleaners. If you have not switched to homemade and green cleaning, at least move away from antibacterial cleaners in your home. The reality is that they are just not necessary.
*Be wary of household products that may contain Triclosan. Household products are not required by the FDA or EPA to list chemical ingredients. Avoid household products that say “antimicrobial”, “odor-fighting”, “fights germs”, “keeps food fresher longer”.
Please, read more about Triclosan for yourself. I hope that you will make the change to stop using antibacterial soaps, cleaners and other products with Triclosan in your home.
Sources and Further Reading:
CDC – Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern
Environmental Working Group – Information about Triclosan
Mercola.com – The Truth about Antibacterial Soaps
Environmental Working Group – Hormone disruptors