Category Archives: hand sanitizer dangers

Why You Should Never Use Products Containing Triclosan

Update, December 10, 2013

I was contacted today by a representative of GOJO Industries, the manufacturer of Purell Hand Sanitizer. The representative contacted me to inform me this article contained “errors” and that the FDA does not allow the chemical Triclosan to be used in “leave on” products. Although I appreciate the representative’s desire to defend their product, the truth is that Triclosan used to be very commonly used in hand sanitizers made by other companies. Let me also make it perfectly clear this article never advised against using hand sanitizing products but specifically warned against using products containing Triclosan.

Approximately five years ago, I spent a significant amount of time researching OTC hand sanitizers in search of ones that did not contain Triclosan. At that time, the majority of the products I researched did indeed contain Triclosan. Purell’s did not. In my research, there were very few hand sanitizers that solely contained alcohol. A Washington Post article from 2010 also identified that some — not all — hand sanitizers did indeed contain Triclosan. In Purell’s defense, they are listed on the Food and Water Watch’s list of companies which are committed to NOT using Triclosan and their products do not contain Triclosan.

Unfortunately, the fact the FDA claims to not allow Triclosan to be used in in leave-on products raises huge questions about why and how some companies continue to use Triclosan in products which are left on the skin. These products include Revlon’s ColorStay LipSHINE Lip Color Plus; Bath and Body Works Instant Antibacterial Hand Gel; numerous deodorants made by companies such as Right Guard and Old Spice; and numerous acne products. (In recent years, the Vaseline Company discontinued using Triclosan in lotions.) If Triclosan cannot be used in products which are left on the skin, why is it allowed to be used in deodorants and lipsticks which are obviously left on the skin? The FDA is currently re-examining Triclosan regulations, but they do not have a strong history of making necessary changes.

The bottom line is that you must read labels. Triclosan is still very commonly included in oral products such as mouthwashes and toothpastes; hand and body washes; etc. The Crest Company has removed Triclosan from some of their products, but not all. The Colgate Company has not yet removed Triclosan from several of its toothpastes. It is especially important to note that Triclosan is included in many products which are labeled “natural,” such as several Avon body sprays. You can view a list of products that contain Triclosan at:

Environmental Working Group’s List of Products Containing Triclosan

US Department of Health and Human Services  Household Products Database

Dr. Ben Kim’s List of Products Containing Triclosan

It is also important to note that the fact a hand sanitizer does not contain Triclosan does not mean it is a pure product. Many OTC hand sanitizers contain a wide variety of other ingredients which are not considered safe.

Original Article, Published 10/3/2011

Let me start this post by saying I strongly encourage everyone to maintain good hygiene during flu season by using frequent hand washing. Although the use of hand sanitizer seems to be a great way to avoid bacteria when you can’t wash your hands, there are dangers associated with OTC hand sanitizers containing Triclosan. In today’s post I’ll share the dangers of Triclosan. If you’d like to see alternatives you can easily make yourself, please read Hand Sanitizer Alternatives. If you are interested in learning more about the unpublished dangers in other common products, please read my post, Why You Should NEVER Use Splenda (Sucralose)

A chemical called Triclosan is the most commonly used antibacterial ingredient in antibacterial liquid soaps, deodorants, oral hygiene products, antibacterial clothing, plastic toys, antibacterial dental products, common cosmetics and antibacterial cleaners. Triclosan is marketed as Microban when used in fabrics and plastics (including toys), and as Biofresh when used in sportsclothing containing acrylic fibers. Triclosan is not just included in most antibacterial products used topically, but is also included in products intended for internal use. The widespread use of Triclosan means it is extremely common and is probably located in at least one product (probably more) in most US households. You can review a list of products containing Triclosan here: Dr. Ben Kim: Products that Contain Triclosan. The EPA investigated Triclosan and classified it as a pesticide, not a cosmetic ingredient. This alone should be cause for concern.
This widespread use would be fine if Triclosan were a safe chemical with no side effects on human health or ecological balance. Unfortunately, it is not a safe chemical. Here’s why:
  • Triclosan Has an Almost Indefinite Afterlife in Human Tissue: Swedish studies found Triclosan in 60% of women’s breast milk, even years after mothers had stopped using antibacterial products due to toxicity concerns. The body stores Triclosan in fat cells. (Toxicity is a common cause of inability to lose weight. The body refuses to lose its protective layer of fat in order to avoid flooding the body with toxins. I find that an effective detox often results in a loss of 5-10 pounds over the span of a year even if no other efforts are made.)  Since the body cannot metabolize and eliminate Triclosan, some studies suggest daily use could easily lead to toxic levels of the chemical in the body.
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  • Triclosan is a Known Endocrine Disruptor: Multiple scientific studies have proven that Triclosan negatively affects thyroid function in frogs, specifically the metabolism of the thyroid hormones. This effect has been shown to stop tadpoles from developing sex organs or from ever becoming a frog. There is some evidence that Triclosan has the same effect in humans. No one can deny that there is an absolute epidemic of thyroid disorders in the US. Did Triclosan cause them? Probably not. Is it a contributor, the evidence says that’s very possible. Why take the risk?
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  • Triclosan Is Associated With Antibiotic Resistance: Other studies have proven that continual use of Triclosan (an antibacterial product) creates antibiotic resistance bacteria. Other studies proved that people who use products containing Triclosan on a daily basis have a higher incidence of resistance to antibiotics than people who do not.
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  • Triclosan Forms Carcinogens When Exposed to Chlorine in Tap Water: When Triclosan is exposed to tap water, such as when you wash your hands with an antibacterial soap, it releases chloroform gas, a known carcinogen. Studies also showed the effect is stronger when hot water is used, such as during a shower. Imagine how much of this gas you inhale during a hot shower. Chloroform gas is also emitted when water containing Triclosan is exposed to sunlight. This effect is a known killer of algaes and other aquatic plant life that are an essential part of the food chain. Waste water processing cannot remove all Triclosan from tap water, so you are drinking it whether you want to or not if you drink tap water. (Please don’t.) Triclosan is also known to break down into dioxins, a chemical known to be toxic.On a side note, did you know the EPA allows sewage from water treatment plants to be used as fertilizer? This means that the dioxins and other chemicals in sewage are being absorbed by the non-organic fruits and veggies you are eating. Aside from being disgusting, this practice could be potentially dangerous.
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  • Triclosen is strongly Linked to Human Disorders: Although further research is needed to confirm the full effects of Triclosan on the endocrine system, existing research proved Triclosan is dangerous to humans and linked its use to increased rates of asthma, allergies and eczema.
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  • Triclosan was recently linked to muscular weakness and disorders:  Recent studies found that Triclosan impairs muscular contractions in cardiac and skeletal muscles. These effects are already seen in the environment in the form of slower swimming fish and other abnormalities.

Needless to say, I thoroughly read all products before purchasing any OTC product, especially since Triclosan hides in products where you wouldn’t expect to find it. I make most of my own bath products and household cleansers. I also make my own all-natural hand sanitizer. Please read Hand Sanitizer Alternatives with Recipes for information on how to avoid Triclosan and easily make your own hand sanitizer and sanitizing sprays.

Please read labels on your household products. How many contain Triclosan?

References:

Gee, RH, A Charles, N Taylor, and PD Darbre. 2008. Oestrogenic and androgenic activity of triclosan in breast cancer cells. Journal of Applied Toxicology 38: 78-91.

Gutierrez, David, “Antibacterial soap ingredient triclosan may be harmful to humans,” 15 Mar 2007, NewsTarget.com. http://www.newstarget.com/021703.html

Ciniglia, C, C Cascone, RL Giudice, et al. 2005. Application of methods for assessing the geno- and cytotoxicity of triclosan to C. ehrenbergii. Journal of Hazardous Materials 122: 227-232.

Coogan, MA, RE Edziyie, TW La Point, and BJ Venables. 2007. Algal bioaccumulation of triclocarban, triclosan, and methyl triclosan in a North Texas wastewater treatment plant receiving stream. Chemosphere 67: 1911-1918.


Calafat, AM, X Ye, LY Wong et al. 2008. Urinary concentrations of triclosan in the U.S. population: 2003-2004. Environmental Health Perspectives 116(3): 303-307.

Crofton, KM, KB Paul MJ DeVito, and JM Hedge. 2007. Shortterm in vivo exposure to the water contaminant triclosan: Evidence for disruption of thyroxine. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology 24:194-197. Veldhoen, N, RC Skirrow, H Osachoff, et al. 2006.
The bactericidal agent triclosan modulates thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and disrupts postembryonic anuran development. Aquatic Toxicology 80: 217-227.