The Dangers of Triclosan Explained: Chemicals In Cosmetics
Table of Contents
Over the course of the 20th century, pharmaceutical companies and product manufacturers experimented with a variety of new chemical compounds in a variety of different products with the hope of finding new and unprecedented ways to tackle issues like healthcare and disease control. While this time may have been filled with optimism regarding the efficacy and multiplicity of new scientific innovations, the truth is that science tends to change and what was once considered healthy and normal, may no longer be so. As our understanding of chemicals and bacteria have advanced, the scientific community has encountered countless issues with products that we now know to have used outdated chemical solutions or substances.
One chemical in particular that has recently come under scrutiny is triclosan. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this common active chemical ingredient, just know that the effects of exposing yourself to triclosan, even in small doses, have become a cause for concern for doctors, consumers and environmentalists alike. One of the biggest issues with triclosan is that it doesn’t dissolve or break down easily. As a result, triclosan-based products become vulnerable to various chemical reactions when they’re washed down sinks and drains and wind up in our water supplies, oceans, and watersheds.
This means that there’s a greater knock-on effect that affects us in many ways – not only does triclosan have a direct impact on the quality of our health, it ultimately harms the environment around us as well. This, in turn, comes back to damage our health again in a variety of ways as it contaminates the food chain and can even contaminate our drinking water. Ironically, in trying to prevent the development of diseases and illnesses with synthesized antibacterial agents such as triclosan, we’ve created something that seems to intensify the issue even more.
In reading this article, I hope to open your eyes to the dangers of these chemical ingredients and hopefully save you a great deal of time, trouble, and money by avoiding products containing harmful chemicals such as Triclosan.
What is Triclosan? What Does Triclosan Do?
Triclosan is an artificial antibacterial and antifungal agent (biocide) that is designed to help kill and reduce the growth of bacteria within the body and on the surface of the skin – at least in principle. It was created in 1964 by a Swiss pharmaceutical company (Ciba-Geigy) and was mainly used during the 1970’s as a hospital scrub.
Since then, it has been included (in small amounts) in a variety of different domestic products including soaps, shampoo, deodorants, toothpaste, mouthwashes, cleaning supplies and pesticides to name a few. It is also often included in consumer products such as kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, trash bags and even socks.
Clearly, even if these products contain only a trace amount of triclosan in their makeup, the fact that so many of the products we use on a regular basis include this chemical is cause for concern. In fact, doctors have already begun to connect this commonplace ingredient with a variety of health problems. Triclosan works by preventing the reproduction of bacteria more than directly killing them off and also inhibits their ability to synthesize with the fatty acids in our body – a constant source of energy for these microscopic threats.
While studies have shown that products containing triclosan are slightly more effective at reducing the germ count than regular soaps, the truth is that the difference is not great enough to justify the health hazards that are associated with this chemical. In fact, as of September 2016, the FDA decided to ban the marketing of over-the-counter products that contain triclosan. The FDA finally caved once they realized the fact that most of the manufacturers of products with triclosan couldn’t prove that the chemical was safe for long-term use. Additionally, most of the studies done on animals proved that quite the opposite was true regarding the nature of this chemical. From what I gathered, triclosan is directly linked to the formation of cancer in mice and has a negative effect on hormonal balances, ultimately killing off microscopic bacteria in the environment (oceans, rivers etc.) that the rest of the food chain is dependant on.
Environmental Dangers of Triclosan Explained
As I mentioned earlier, the knock-on effects of Triclosan go much further than the direct health issues that they’re connected with. Due to the fact that it doesn’t completely breakdown on the surface of our skin or in our bodies, triclosan tends to pass through us back into the environment. Alternatively, the common chemical is washed down the drain in the form of soap and shampoo lather, when we use mouthwash or toothpaste, and cleaning products down the drain.
Because Triclosan cannot be broken down by water processing, it tends to pass through into the rivers, oceans, and watersheds where sewerage outlets tend to lead. Here, it contaminates the water supply and infects nearly all forms of organic life that live within or near to the contaminated water source. While seemingly harmless, many smaller organisms are dependant on these microscopic bacteria as a food source.
This also means that plants stand a chance of becoming infected by the chemical, which means we are at risk of ingesting more of this chemical directly into our systems when we eat fruits and vegetables (ironically in order to stay healthy). Due to the fact that it’s also often used as a pesticide, we may unknowingly ingest treated plants and over time, the buildup of triclosan in our bodies may cause serious health issues.
Besides the negative effects that this chemical has on our environment in general, the effects on our bodies directly are a lot worse in the long run. Recent studies have shown that triclosan has the ability to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria which is incredibly dangerous for us humans. Ultimately, this can lead to the formation of superbugs which are ultimately untreatable and spread like wildfire. So cutting this chemical out of your life is not only something you should do to benefit your immediate health but also for the greater good of mankind- lest the killer flu becomes a reality.
How to Avoid Products that Contain Triclosan
The best way to avoid anything in life is to know as much about it as you can. However, when it comes to avoiding chemicals – it’s a much more complicated process. This is largely due to the fact that these chemicals can be contained in a variety of different products and substances that we use on a regular basis, and most of us don’t tend to read the back of the packaging in order to scan for a specific chemical or ingredient – and who could blame you!
While companies are required by law to show the ingredients that their products contain, the fact that most of the harmful chemicals that we’d like to avoid have such complex names, or rather, have a variety of different forms, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to identify and avoid them. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend replacing as many of the conventional, chemical-based products in your home with safer, natural alternatives or simply cut them out of your life if at all possible.
The best place to start is in the kitchen and the bathroom by replacing as many (or all) of your detergents, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorants and general cleaning supplies. Try switching to natural, chemical-free alternatives in order to preserve your body’s natural immunity and prevent the illnesses and disease that can result from triclosan and similar chemical ingredients.
There are a wide variety of natural alternatives out there today that have come about largely as a reaction to the issue of chemical contaminants in almost every aspect of our lives. There are healthier substitutes for all kinds of products including shampoos, conditioners, skin creams, soaps, toothpaste, facial products and even makeup. All it takes is a little bit of research online and you’ll be able to find safer versions of nearly all consumable products in your home. In short, don’t bother believing that conventional products will change their ways anytime soon (although the recent ban issued by the FDA does help). Instead, make the shift to a more natural lifestyle and start reaping the benefits immediately.
Which Companies Use Triclosan in Their Products?
I was shocked to see a such a huge list of products that contain Triclosan as an active ingredient in their makeup, especially with the many “environmentally-conscious” companies I was browsing through.
In truth, one could say that triclosan has become somewhat of an epidemic. This is largely due to the crazy amount of companies who’ve managed to include it in their formula for a long period of time since the FDA only banned it in 2016. In reality, it will probably take a while for the effects of the ban to really take hold (as business always takes precedence in the eyes of a company).
Hopefully, though, the ban will be properly enforced and will ultimately prevent these brands from selling their products without altering their recipes. But in order to give you an idea of just how many brands out there still use this product, here’s a list to look out for when you go shopping next.
Note that due to the ban, some of these brands may have removed the chemical from their formula without necessarily making a point of it (to protect their brand’s image), but this is a good standard to use.
Dial® Liquid handsoap and body wash; Tea Tree Therapy™ Liquid Soap; Clearasil® Daily Face Wash; Dermalogica® Skin Purifying Wipes; DermaKleen™ Antibacterial Lotion Soap; CVS Antibacterial Soap, Ajax Antibacterial Dishsoap, Kimcare Antibacterial Clear Soap, Bath and Body Works Antibacterial Hand Soaps, Gels and Foaming Sanitizers.
For a healthier and safer alternative, check out our piece on Castile soap.
Colgate Total®; Breeze™ Daily Mouthwash; Reach® Antibacterial Toothbrush
Garden Botanika® Powder Foundation; Mavala Lip Base; Movate® Skin Lightening Cream HQ; Paul Mitchell Detangler Comb, Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Babor Volume Mascara, Phytomer Perfect Visage Gentle Cleansing Milk, Phytomer Hydracontinue Instant Moisture Cream, Bath and Body Works Antibacterial Moisturizing Lotions.
Arm and Hammer® Essentials Natural Deodorant; Queen Helene® Tea Tree Oil Deodorant and Aloe Deodorant; DeCleor Deodorant Stick; Epoch® Deodorant with Citrisomes.
SyDERMA® Skin Protectant plus First Aid Antiseptic; Healwell Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint; Solarcaine® First Aid Medicated Spray; Nexcare™ First Aid, Skin Crack Care; Universal Cervical Collar with Microban.
Farberware® Microban Cutting Boards; Franklin Machine Products FMP Ice Cream Scoop SZ 20 Microban; Hobart Semi-Automatic Slicer; Chix® Food Service Wipes with Microban; Compact Web Foot® Wet Mop Heads.
Other Personal Care Products:
Murad Acne Complex® Kit, ®; Diabet-x™ Cream; Scunci Microban Comb, Sportslick Pocket Slick.
Biofresh® socks, undergarments, tops and bottoms.
Office and School Products:
Ticonderoga® Pencils with Microban Protection, Avery® Touchgaurd View Binders, C-line® products, Clauss® cutting instruments, Costco® products, Sharp® printing calculators. Westcott® scissors
Bionare® Cool Mist Humidifier; Deciguard AB® Antimicrobial Ear Plugs; Bauer® Re-Akt hockey helmet and 7500 hockey helment; Miller Paint Acro Pure Interior Paint; Holmes Foot Buddy™ HMH120U Antimicrobial Foot Buddy Foot Warmer, Blue Mountain Wall Coverings, California Paints®, Davis Paint® Perfection, Hirschfield’s Paint®,O’Leary Paint®, EHC AMRail Escalator Handrails, Dupont™ Air Filters, Winix Dehumidifiers, J Cloth® towels, select Quickie cleaning products, Kimberly Clark® WYPALL X80 Towels, Canopy® kitchen towels, ALUF Plastics®, BioEars earplugs, Petmate® LeBistro feeders and waterers, Infantino cart covers and baby carriers, Oreck XL®, Bissell Healthy Home Vacuum™, NuTone® Central Vacuum systems, Rival® Seal-A-Meal® Vacuum Food Sealer, CleenFreek SportsHygiene Yoga Mat, Resilite Sports Products, Rubbermaid® Coolers, Stufitts sports gear, Venture Products® fitness mats, Custom Building Products, DAP®Kwik Seal Plus®, Laticrete, Niasa Biquichamp® mortar grout and sealant, ProAdvanced Products.
Ultimately, Triclosan is something that should be avoided at all costs. While certain results have shown that it is mildly effective in terms of preventing the spread and growth of bacteria as well as inhibiting the harmful effects of infection, the truth is that the number of negative side-effects that come as a result of using this chemical on a regular basis are far more hazardous than we originally thought. I would recommend cutting out as many different chemicals as possible as the best option for your health and switching to a natural and more organic lifestyle. Hopefully, this will enable you to preserve your health and prevent the formation of illness and disease. Stay safe my friends.