Triclosan is a powerful chemical used to fight the spread of germs. It is an antibacterial and antifungal agent used in various household products like hand soap, toothpaste, toys, and beauty products. It eliminates the spread of disease, but is it good for you?
The chemical was first brought to the market in 1969 for hospital use by drug company Novartis and was distributed to the consumer market shortly after that. The chemical compound is an organic polychloro phenoxy phenol that breaks down to a dioxin when used in products after targeting bacteria through fatty acid synthesis.
But as great of a wonder cleaner as triclosan may seem to be, it isn’t the safest for you. Studies have shown that triclosan has numerous and severe health outcomes, and environmental risks as well, especially after the compound diminishes into dioxin. It’s become such a concern that efforts to ban the chemical have begun in the U.S. and companies have also started to reformulate products that contain the hazardous chemical. Below are four hazards of triclosan, as well as where it can be found and what to watch out for.
1. Hormonal Problems
Studies have shown that triclosan alters testosterone and thyroid serum levels and also affects estrogen adapters and synthesis. Triclosan stores itself in certain cells and has been found to hide in breast milk and blood. The compound can have long-term hormonal effects that can be passed along and affect the immune system, fertility, and pregnancy.
Since hormonal effects impact the entire endocrine system, from vital organs to the release of necessary chemicals in the body, this dangerous substance is ultimately an endocrine disruptor.
Exposure to triclosan can lead to the development of allergies, especially in children still developing their immune system, and can also change the bacterial skin flora of growing children. Hay fever, asthma, and seasonal allergy symptoms are also common symptoms in children who use products containing triclosan.
In 2013, a Norwegian study looked at the effects of triclosan on 10-year-old children. The study found that triclosan concentrations in urine samples were associated with allergic sensitization, especially inhalant and seasonal allergens, rather than those dealing with food. Urine showed elevated levels of immunoglobulin E, and rhinitis (blocked nose or hay fever) in the 623 children studied.
Dioxin is a carcinogen and has been linked to multiple types of cancer, and when triclosan breaks down, it turns into a dioxin. It is also known to cause uncontrolled cell growth. When triclosan was paired with chlorinated toxic tap water, it formed chloroform, which is another carcinogen. A study showed that continuous exposure to triclosan caused liver damage, including cancer, in rats. Carcinogenic properties found in triclosan combined with the reduction of good bacteria is highly concerning, as this causes cancer growth.
4. Environmental Hazards
When the compound’s dioxins leak into the water supply and are exposed to UV radiation (sunlight), the negative effects have severe environmental repercussions. Studies show that the dangerous element is present in nearly 60 percent of U.S. streams and rivers as a result of it being washed down our drains on a daily basis. It also damages aquatic animals and plant life, kills algae, and even goes as far as to change the hormones and sex of fish.
Triclosan has also been found in fish, dolphins, marine worms and earthworms. It’s also been detected in dolphins that swim off the east coast of the U.S., showing a movement through the ocean’s food chain.
Triclosan in Products
Currently, there are many products on the shelves of our favorite stores that have triclosan. However, finding the word “triclosan” has become much more difficult to spot since most companies have opted to change their labels. For instance, companies have used catchy words like BioFresh and Microban, as well as Irgasan, Lexol, Ster-Zac, and Cloxifenolum. Triclosan has also been incorporated into products like bedding, cutting boards, and workout clothes.
The most popular products that contain the chemical include antibacterial hand and body soaps, toothpaste, mouthwashes, cosmetics (including foundations and moisturizers), first aid products, kitchenware, office supplies like pencils and binders, humidifiers, filters, and more.
Popular brand names that use the chemical in some or all of their products include Colgate, Arm and Hammer, Queen Helen, Garden Botanika, Reach, Tea Tree Therapy, CVS, BioFresh and more.
Triclosan Side Effects
By using products containing triclosan, it is quite easy to absorb a small amount through your skin or mouth. Triclosan’s side effects are similar to its dangers. Side effects for triclosan toothpaste and other triclosan products are endocrine-based, as well as epidermal. Triclosan is lipophilic, which stores in fat cells in the body, and can be present in breast milk, urine, and blood.
While triclosan is also known to destroy good bacteria and T-helper cells, bad bacteria’s long-term exposure to the chemical has allowed germs to adapt, resulting in the growth of superbugs that have become resistant to the chemical and have caused an epidemic.
Research from the University of California at Davis found that triclosan weakened the normal mechanism of muscle fibers in fish and mice. Both skeletal and cardiac muscles were unable to operate normally. Mice showed a 25 percent reduction in heart function within 20 minutes of exposure to triclosan.
These findings should serve as a warning to all consumers of the dangers triclosan can cause. Always remember that many known toxic chemicals that affect humans today were first exposed to animals during studies.
Be observant of the products you purchase and what chemicals are in them. Doing some research might help if you are unsure of the names on the labels of many of your favorite products. Ultimately, aiming for a triclosan-free lifestyle is best, as the effects of this dangerous chemical on the human body and the environment can be critical.Related: 10 Poisons Consumed Daily