Monday, July 18, 2011

Let's talk about Triclosan

Triclosan is an ingredient which is found in multiple household items. It is a common ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps, body washes, toothpastes and some cosmetics as well as being incorporated into clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys.

While this ingredient is not known to be harmful to humans there have been several new studies released and the FDA and EPA have collaborated and are re-evaluating its effects on the environment as well as humans in light of these studies.

This question is posed on the FDA web site which I found to be very interesting:

Does triclosan provide a benefit in consumer products?

For some consumer products, there is clear evidence that triclosan provides a benefit. In 1997, FDA reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence showed that triclosan in this product was effective in preventing gingivitis.

For other consumer products, FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. 

There are other studies are investigating the possibility that use of triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

According to the EPA:

Current as of March 2010

Triclosan (2,4,4’ –trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether) is a chlorinated aromatic compound. Its functional groups include both phenols and ethers. It is used as a synthetic broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Triclosan was first registered as a pesticide in 1969.

Triclosan is also utilized in many industrial settings for machinery and equipment in order to prevent microbial growth.

Based on monitoring, triclosan was found in at least 36 US streams which were close to some sort of water treatment plant (sewage, sludge etc. plant) and is believed to be contributing to the occurrence of triclosan in open water. While it currently appears that fish are not affected it has been determined that aquatic plants are affected (which would lead me to believe that fish may eventually be effected via the food chain).

The EPA admits that it does not know how much triclosan is being released into the environment from industrial sites and is amending some rules and regulations as well as labeling regulations for these institutions to begin being able to monitor this pesticide better.

There are a list of "Nest Steps" listed on the EPA site about it's plans for triclosan:

Next Steps

  • Given the rapidly developing scientific database for triclosan, the Agency intends to accelerate the schedule for the registration review process for this chemical. Currently, the Agency intends to begin that process in 2013, ten years earlier than originally planned.
  • EPA and FDA are collaborating on research projects that will help both agencies to better characterize the endocrine-related effects of triclosan, including toxicological effects, human relevance, and the doses at which they occur to determine if levels of human exposure are safe or not. The Agency will pay close attention to this ongoing research and will amend the regulatory decision if the science supports such a change.
  • The Agency is also updating its 2008 assessment of triclosan exposure using the newly released 2005-2006 NHANES urinary monitoring results and will incorporate those results into the revised risk assessment.
  • The Agency will continue to participate in the Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance and evaluate information that results from that activity, and will continue its cooperative efforts with the FDA to share information on triclosan and discuss future research efforts and needs that will best meet the needs of the two agencies. 
Why am I writing about this particular ingredient? Simple, this ingredient is used in many if not most of our every day products and there are just now numerous studies coming out with information stating that this may not be the best thing since sliced bread. For starters, you really can't kill it, it kills things and therefor itself is very hard to render ineffective.

I was really surprised when I learned that it was first registered with the EPA as a pesticide and is now in my toothpaste......toothbrush fibers.....some cosmetics.....and pretty much anything labeled anti-bacterial. I saw on another site that it can stay active in your skin for up to 12 HOURS! I am still working to confirm this bit of info with a scientific based source, but if this is true it pretty much means that we all eat triclosan daily in addition to eating it when we, yuck! Just the simple fact that the EPA is moving their assessment timetable up for this ingredient by 10 years raises some red flags with me.

Anytime there is an ingredient that is used so heavily in such a variety of ways I am instantly curious and want to know more about it. Conveniently the EPA and FDA have also decided that they are curious and want to know more too so I will be keeping a close eye on this topic and report back what is published as I learn more. I always find it particularly interesting that through so many of these studies the FDA still stands behind the study that washing your hands with plain soap and water is just as effective, so it leaves me wondering why to the big corporations add the extra chemical and dump so  many millions and billions of dollars into marketing something that may not even be necessary?

Stay healthy my friends
~Your Soapsmith

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