Antibacterial products have become ever-present in our society, and the most ubiquitous of antimicrobial agents is a chemical called "triclosan". It can be found in everything from personal care products and clothing, to kitchenware and pens.

Triclosan has been linked to serious health problems, as well as harm to the environment. Concerns include the potential for allergic reactions, interference with thyroid function and disruption of the endocrine system. The estrogenic effects of triclosan may induce early puberty, which in turn increases the risk of breast cancer in women.

Another potential problem with triclosan is its link to dioxin. Triclosan degrades in the presence of light and moisture and can break down into dioxin, the most toxic known chemical. In addition, research indicates that triclosan may lead to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. By killing certain bacteria, it leaves behind an environment where triclosan-resistant bacteria can thrive because there are more resources and less competition. Research has found that certain strains of bacteria have become completely tolerant of triclosan, rendering it ineffective.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) share authority over the regulation of triclosan. Since it is a pesticide, triclosan must be registered with the EPA. For all other uses, the FDA has authority. Notably, while the FDA proposed its first ruling concerning triclosan in 1978, this ruling was never finalized and consequently there is no restriction on the use of triclosan in personal care and other products.

Virtually all health professionals agree that the use of triclosan offers no more benefit than washing with regular soap and water, and as a result, demands for stronger regulation are growing. In the meantime, botanical disinfectants and sanitizers using thyme oil, grape seed oil and other plant substances as active ingredients are proven safe and effective alternatives to triclosan. These products are becoming more popular and are now widely available in supermarkets and other large stores.

Suggested Products

CleanWell – All-natural hand sanitizers and hand wipes made from renewable resources. Contains no alcohol and safe for kids!

Other Resources

Triclosan Fact Sheet – From Beyond Pesticides