Antibacterial Products May Be Harmful

Avoid triclosan, an antibacterial chemical that may damage human health and cause the growth of resistant bacteria.

| December 2011/January 2012

For years, consumers and medical profes­sionals have raised questions about the safety and efficacy of the antibacterial chemical triclosan. It’s added to products from hand soap, toothpaste and shaving gel to clothing and even cutting boards to prevent the growth of bacteria and transmission of illness. But recently, evi­dence that triclosan may facilitate the growth of resistant bacteria and harm the human endocrine system has persuaded the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to take a closer look.

The FDA is currently reassessing triclosan’s safety, with results to come in late 2012. The EPA is updating its 2008 assessment of triclosan and will begin a comprehensive review in 2013. Since its introduction 40 years ago, triclosan has become so prevalent in con­sumer products that a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found it in the urine of 75 percent of Americans ages 6 and up.

The good news is that research has shown ordinary soap and water clean hands just as ef­fectively as antibacterial soap.  

Read more: To learn more about the harms of using triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals, check out our article Why You Don’t Need Antibacterial Soap.

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