Should I avoid products that contain triclosan?
Answer From Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.
The answer is probably.
Triclosan is a chemical with antibacterial properties. For decades, triclosan has been added to personal care products, such as hand soaps and cosmetics, and materials ranging from athletic clothing to food packaging. When you use a product containing triclosan, you can absorb a small amount through your skin or mouth.
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that triclosan is not generally recognized as safe and effective for antiseptic products intended for use in health care settings. In 2016, the FDA also banned over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products containing triclosan from being marketed to consumers. These products include liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes. The basis of the ban was that manufacturers haven't proved that triclosan is safe for daily use over a long period.
The FDA's steps follow recent studies that have raised questions about whether triclosan is 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
Triclosan isn't an essential ingredient in many products. Triclosan added to toothpaste has been shown to help prevent gingivitis. However, there's no evidence that antibacterial soaps and body washes containing triclosan provide any benefit over plain soap and water, according to the FDA.
If you're concerned about triclosan, check your products' ingredient lists.
June 25, 2020
Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Yueh MF, et al. Triclosan: A widespread environmental toxicant with many biological effects. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology. 2016; doi:10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010715-103417.
- Olaniyan LW, et al. Triclosan in water, implications for human and environmental health. SpringerPlus. 2016; doi:10.1186/s40064-016-3287-x.
- 5 things to know about triclosan. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-triclosan. Accessed Nov. 6, 2019.
- Triclosan. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/triclosan_factsheet.html. Accessed Nov. 6, 2019.
- Antibacterial soap? You can skip it, use plain soap and water. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/antibacterial-soap-you-can-skip-it-use-plain-soap-and-water. Accessed Nov. 6, 2019.
- Q & A for consumers: Health care antiseptics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/qa-consumers-health-care-antiseptics. Accessed Nov. 6, 2019.