Scrub-a-dub-dub, triclosan in the tub! But maybe not for much longer…
Triclosan is a chemical used in antibacterial products. In the US, it is estimated that about 75 percent of liquid soaps and washes contain triclosan. It is also found in toothpaste, kitchen cleaners, and detergents—it’s everywhere. That must mean we’re all pretty safe because all of the bacteria in our lives are being killed, right? Some would say otherwise.
In 1978, triclosan was deemed not especially safe or effective by the FDA, but there was no research to make a strong case for its danger. What danger, you ask? Studies done using animals lead to the conclusion that it could be a danger to human fertility, and cause early puberty. However, according to the FDA, trends in animal testing do not always show up equally in humans. Currently, the FDA is working to decide if the risks are enough to shut down the $1 billion industry.
After learning about these risks, I was curious if antibacterial soap containing triclosan was at least making my grubby little paws cleaner. As it turns out, studies have shown that antibacterial cleansers are no more effective than your run of the mill civilian soap. Soap cleans by breaking up the oil and dirt on your hands, suspending them in water droplets that get washed down the drain. Using antibacterials give you no benefit, according to various studies.
It’s up to you to decide how you feel about the triclosan controversy. But until then, and after, just keep washing your hands people—the common cold never sleeps!
Image by Arlington County.