There currently isn't enough evidence to recommend avoiding use of products that contain triclosan — an ingredient added to certain soaps, cosmetics, clothing, cookware, furniture and toys to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. Recent studies, however, have raised questions about whether triclosan might be hazardous to human health.
Research has shown that triclosan:
- Alters hormone regulation in animals
- Might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs
- Might be harmful to the immune system
When you use a product containing triclosan, you can absorb a small amount through your skin or mouth. A 2008 study, which was designed to assess exposure to triclosan in a representative sample of U.S. children and adults, found triclosan in the urine of nearly 75 percent of those tested.
Triclosan isn't an essential ingredient in many products. While triclosan added to toothpaste has been shown to help prevent gingivitis, there's no evidence that antibacterial soaps and body washes containing triclosan provide any extra benefits, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
If you're concerned about triclosan, look for products that don't list triclosan in their ingredients.
April 15, 2014
See more Expert Answers
- Rees Clayton EM, et al. The impact of bisphenol A and triclosan on immune parameters in the U.S. population, NHANES 2003-2006. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2011;119:390.
- Witorsch RJ, et al. Personal care products and endocrine disruption: A critical review of the literature. Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 2010;40:1.
- Triclosan: What consumers should know. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm205999.htm. Accessed Dec. 13, 2013.
- Calafat AM, et al. Urinary concentrations of triclosan in the U.S. population: 2003-2004. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008;116:303.
- Triclosan facts. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm. Accessed Dec. 13, 2013.
- Triclosan. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Triclosan_FactSheet.html. Accessed Dec. 13, 2013.
- Bertelsen RJ, et al. Triclosan exposure and allergic sensitization in Norwegian children. Allergy 2013;68:84.