Triclosan: 1st Registered as a Pesticide, Now in Your Daily Toothpaste
Our skin absorbs over 80 percent of what we put on it. So while we’re so worried about what we eat, we should also put thought into what we put on our bodies—some of which might be skincare products filled with chemicals, fragrances and other five-syllable additives.
One such chemical, Triclosan, is recently coming under fire. This prominent ingredient in several bathroom products, cosmetics and cleaners could be even more harmful than the bacteria it’s trying to stop.
While you wouldn’t think an ingredient first registered as a pesticide in 1969 would ever come into contact with our skin, Triclosan’s ability to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination has made it a go-to for products that keep us clean. Think toothpaste, mouthwash, antibacterial soap and face wash. It’s even found in products such as clothing, toothbrushes, kitchenware and toys, hoping that these items won’t spread harmful bacteria throughout our homes.
Now under FDA scrutiny, here’s an introduction to Triclosan, an ingredient that has recently been proven should have no place in your home.
How is Triclosan harmful?
Known as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent, Triclosan is used to kill off bacteria. But its strength is also its weakness. Fighting those harmful microbes translates to causing even more harm to your body. Studies have shown it (and its chemical cousin triclocarban) have been linked to numerous human health concerns.
While exposures comes mainly by absorption through the skin or through the lining of the mouth, studies have shown it has caused contact dermatitis (aka skin irritation) and an increase in allergic reactions, asthma and eczema, especially in children. Recent investigation has also discovered that Triclosan could interfere with the body’s thyroid hormone metabolism and may be a potential endocrine disruptor.
Other studies have raised the possibility that Triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics, a danger that affects us all.
According to the FDA, "Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. But several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this ingredient that merit further review."
How do I know if Triclosan is in a product?
Health and environmental groups led by Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch have been taking aim at removing Triclosan from the market, but they have a long way to go. Over the last few years, major manufacturers have quietly reformulated their products without Triclosan, but that doesn’t mean all have complied with this voluntary changeover.
Since antibacterial washes and toothpastes fall into the “over-the-counter drug” category, if one contains Triclosan, it will be listed on the label under Drug Facts. If you’re worried about whether your cosmetic contains Triclosan, check the ingredient list on the product label. Look for products containing "antimicrobial protection," which almost guarantees Triclosan is an ingredient. When it comes to antibacterial soaps, it may be listed as Triclocarban, in place of Triclosan
How can I prevent the use of Triclosan in my home?
While several well-known household brands have used this antimicrobial agent in the past, its negative attention has caused many to reformulate products. But this isn’t always a guarantee what you’re buying is Triclosan-free. Always check labels before you buy products, as some stores may still carry old formulas containing the ingredient.
The only guarantee you can be safe from Triclosan is to rely on tried and true household products that have never had it in their formulas. One such brand is Luster Premium White, a tooth whitening brand invented by dentists. Daily toothpastes include:
- Power White Deep Stain Eraser® Fluoride Toothpaste to remove up to 95% of surface stains,
- Luster NOW! Instant Whitening Toothpaste for the optical effect of whiter teeth after one brushing.
With the focus on Triclosan, it’s hopeful the industry will take action against this and other harmful chemical ingredients, on its way to helping create a safer world.
Want to learn more about what's in your toothpaste? Check out our recent post around SLS, Are you Brushing your Teeth with Dish Soap?