What is Triclosan?
Recently, the chemical Triclosan has been making news as new evidence has shown that this chemical inhibits muscle function in mice and fish. Invented more than 40 years ago, the chemical first saw use in hospitals in 1972 with surgical scrubs. Its use has since expanded into toothpastes, deodorants, anti-bacterial soaps and a host of other household cleaners and objects.
In 1998, the EPA estimated that more than a million pounds of this chemical were produced annual in the United States. This has resulted in traces of the chemical being found in blood, urine and breast milk samples of patients. The use of Triclosan is so widespread that in a recent survey, the US CDC found traces of it in over 75% of Americans over the age of 5.
What are the side effects of Triclosan?
In this recent study, the scientists found that mice showed reductions of up to 25 percent in heart functions after just 20 minutes of exposure to the chemical. Grip strength of these mice also decreased by 18 percent. The fish that were exposed to Triclosan in the water also did poorer on swimming tests than those which had not been exposed.
What’s notable about this experiment is that the scientists tested the chemicals at concentrations similar to those that humans would face. This is in stark contrast to other studies where exposure levels were well above those found anywhere (such as the studies on hexachlorophene, a now banned soap ingredient).
Though there is no direct evidence that this chemical will have the same impact on humans that it had on animals, we note that this is not the first time that Triclosan has been in the news. This same team had linked this chemical to reproductive hormone activity disruption and its effects on cell signaling in the brain. Though the FDA and European protection agencies have declared this chemical safe, this new research casts doubts on it.
How is Triclosan dangerous?
Pessah, one of the researchers on the team stated “The target we’ve identified has been implicated in the impairment of heart function over a period of time. If an average individual loses 10 percent of their cardiac function, they’re not going to feel it. But if you’re a person with heart disease already at 50 percent of heart function capacity, reducing 10 percent or 20 percent could markedly hurt your health.”
Other potential side effects of Triclosan include abnormalities with the endocrine system, birth defects and a weakening of the immune system. A 2010 study showed that children with higher exposures to Triclosan had more hay fever.
What Products are Triclosan Used in?
Ironically, with Triclosan’s widespread use in antibacterial soaps and related products, the only area in which it has shown to be effective is in the fight against gingivitis. The chemical is currently being used in these products:
- Colgate Total®; Breeze™ Triclosan Mouthwash
- Reach® Antibacterial Toothbrush
- Janina Diamond Whitening Toothpaste
If you are using the products, then we recommend that you consider using other toothpastes that do not have this ingredient in place. Depending on the company creating the product, Triclosan can also be braned as Microban® Additive B, Irgasan® (DP 300 or PG 60), Biofresh®, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac or Cloxifenolum. Some soaps will use triclocarban in place of triclosan.
Recommended Toothpastes without Triclosan
We have selected some of the top toothpastes without Triclosan below.