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Why You Should Steer Clear of Triclosan

Why You Should Steer Clear of Triclosan

Here’s what you need to know about triclosan, an ingredient found in many common household products.

What do credit cards, hockey helmets, kids’ toys, trashcans, toothpaste, deodorants and shaving creams have in common? They could all contain triclosan, which for a long time has been touted as an effective antimicrobial (a bacteria slayer). Then, a few years ago, it was discovered that triclosan could contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, or superbugs, and the FDA banned its use in hospital cleaning agents and consumer soaps.

Unfortunately, the FDA can’t regulate paints, clothes, sporting equipment and furniture. That’s why you still can find the antimicrobial in those products and in anything that advertises itself as having “antimicrobial properties.” So it continues to cause trouble in the biosphere—and for you.

Most recently, research published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy, revealed how triclosan can help bacteria become more resistant to antibiotic treatments for diseases such as urinary tract infections. Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found repeated triclosan exposure makes bacteria able to survive “normally lethal concentrations of antibiotics,” such as the old staple ciprofloxacin (Cipro). Previous research has found triclosan alters hormone regulation and could be harmful to your immune system.

So be on your guard for clothing, house paints and toys, etc., that claim to control or kill germs and bacteria. There’s a good chance they contain triclosan—and the manufacturers are not required to include that info in their labeling.

Tip: Washing your hands thoroughly with plain soap and water is just as effective at getting rid of unwanted bacteria as so-called antimicrobials.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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