Brought to market in the early 1970s and lauded as a powerful antimicrobial, triclosan is now found in hundreds of household products , from soaps and cosmetics to kitchenware and clothes. Consequently, it shows up in the toxic burden of 75% of all Americans.
Our environment is burdened, as well. As we noted before,
Triclosan cannot be completely removed by wastewater treatment. (Think of all the triclosan that goes down the drain already from antimicrobial soaps and detergents, and how much more there would be if it were as common an ingredient as fluoride in toothpastes.) Once released in the environment, it may be transformed to highly toxic substances through various interactions – e.g., dioxins, via the effects of sunlight on some of triclosan’s chemical components.
The problem is illustrated by a study published earlier this year in Environmental Science and Technology. Testing the sediment of 8 Minnesota lakes – including Lake Superior – researchers found significant levels of triclosan, derivatives and triclosan-derived dioxins in all lakes with waste water input. The one that didn’t receive waste water showed no detectable triclosan or derivatives.
Even the EPA seems concerned about the amount of exposure and its potential impact on human health. As Dr. Mercola noted a while back, the agency
announced it will undertake a comprehensive review of triclosan beginning in 2013, and [noted] they will “pay close attention to the ongoing endocrine research and will amend the regulatory decision if the science supports such a change.”
Our friends at the ADA, however, appear to be keeping the faith as to the toxin’s safety. Responding to an earlier study, a spokesperson put it plainly :
The ADA believes that current formulations of triclosan-containing toothpastes are safe and effective for their intended purpose, when used as directed.
The organization’s website, in fact, touts the benefits with no mention of the known risks.
The good news about triclosan is that more people are starting to take action. Last year, House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter and two colleagues called on the FDA to enact a ban, noting that “triclosan is clearly a threat to our health.”
Meantime, we can each do what we can to steer clear of the stuff in the products we buy. Some helpful tips: