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The Question of Triclosan


After about a decade of hemming and hawing, the FDA has finally changed its position on triclosan from "This is safe." to "We're not sure." As of January of this year, the FDA announced that manufacturers have until 2016 to prove that the anti-bacterial ingredient is more effective than plain soap and water. If they can't, the products containing triclosan will be pulled from the shelves.

Triclosan has several safety concerns, including for the person using it and the environment at large. Triclosan can react with the free chlorine in tap water to produce lesser amounts of other compounds, such as 2.4-dichlorophenol. Most of these intermediates convert into dioxins upon exposure to UV radiation (from the sun or other sources). Although only small amounts of dioxins are produced, some dioxins are extremely toxic and are very potent endocrine disruptors. They are also chemically stable, so that they are eliminated from the body slowly (They can bioaccumulate to measurable levels, although how much and how dangerous are still controversial.), and they persist in the environment. There are conflicting studies available, but triclosan has been associated with lower levels of thyroid hormone and testosterone. This *may* lead to altered behavior, learning disabilities, and infertility. Very low doses of triclosan have been suggested to act as an estrogenic mimic and increase proliferation rates of breast cancers. A study between 2003 and 2006 concluded that triclosan can affect the immune system.

While the final decision is still pending, there are safe and natural anti-microbial alternatives available. Look for ones made with tea tree oil and thyme oil. The products will usually be labeled "antimicrobial" rather than "antibacterial." I find mine at Jimbo's, Sprouts, or other local natural foods stores, or I order them online.


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