Yes, We’re Still Fighting Against Triclosan in Soap, Toys, and More


The Environmental Working Group joins more than 200 scientists and medical professionals today in condemning the continued presence of triclosan, an antimicrobial that has been linked to endocrine disruption, in thousands of products you may find in your home.

Triclosan and related triclocarban are antimicrobial agents used in everything from over-the-counter mouthwash to hand soap to yoga mats. But these chemicals have been linked to hormone disruption in peer-reviewed studies, such as one 2010 study in Toxicological Sciences and another 2016 study in PLoS ONE. In a 2008 study, EWG found triclosan and 15 other toxic chemicals in the blood and urine of 20 teen girls, showing that they can also build up in people’s bodies.

And here’s the real kicker: according to the FDA, “there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.”

While the FDA banned the sale of triclosan, triclocarban, and 16 other antimicrobials in hand soap and body wash last September, these chemicals are still found in more than 2,000 household products ranging from toothpaste to paper napkins to playground equipment, according to EWG’s review of industry documents and government databases.

“[The ban] doesn’t address other cosmetic products, and it definitely doesn’t do consumer products, as those are under EPA jurisdiction,” says David Andrews, an Environmental Working Group senior scientist.

“The big concern here, and part of this consensus statement, is really calling into question the unnecessary use of these chemical ingredients, especially in places where they’re likely having no benefit on health,” says Andrews.

EWG and other experts are asking the FDA to take action in removing triclosan and antimicrobials from these products, but the group would also like to see clearer labeling in cases where the chemical is currently present.

“Right now it can be really difficult as a consumer to entirely shop your way outside of this product category, just because the use is often unlabeled,” says Andrews. “Many products will say ‘includes antimicrobials’ or ‘antibacterial coatings,’ but it’s not necessarily clear if they use triclosan or some other ingredient.”

This, he says, is especially important information for pregnant women and children to have, as endocrine disruption during these key stages of development can be even more grave, but it’s also key also for people with allergies.

“We have it flagged as increasing sensitivities to allergens or more frequent allergenic responses, from asthma to other allergy exposures,” says Andrews. “When those allergenic exposures are occurring at the same time as triclosan, they seem to be more frequent.”

Today’s statement, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, unites scientists, health professionals, and government officials from 30 nations as they demand more transparency and tighter regulations on these dangerous chemicals around the globe – hopefully sooner rather than later.

Related on EcoSalon
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Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.