What’s the Trouble with Triclosan?
Antibacterial agent comes under fire for potential health risks
Colgate Total has been in the news lately, thanks to one of its active ingredients – triclosan. The antibacterial chemical has come under increased scrutiny as new studies have raised questions about its safety. These studies show that triclosan may be influencing cancer cell growth and disrupting the way hormones work in animals.1 Whether these undesirable side effects are present in humans is harder to determine, but it doesn’t bode well for the chemical.
So why include a questionable chemical? Total’s patented formula has proved effective in reducing the bacteria that cause plaque and gingivitis, which can lead to periodontal disease.
However, triclosan’s use in other products hasn’t been proven to be beneficial. Triclosan can be found in many different types of products – everything from cosmetics to clothing to rugs. Its presence in some of the products that dental healthcare professionals use every day for infection control purposes might be cause for concern.
For example, triclosan is a common ingredient in antibacterial hand soaps, even though it has not been proven to be more effective at reducing illness than washing hands properly with regular soap and water. It’s this fact that has the FDA re-examining the safety and efficacy of including triclosan in soap and body washes, outside of hospital settings.
According to FDA microbiologist Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., “New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits.” In addition to the cancer and hormonal effects, triclosan is also suspected of contributing to bacterial resistance of antibiotics – a problem with broad-reaching implications.
Fortunately, it’s easy to move away from hand soaps containing triclosan, while taking the opportunity to emphasize the importance of following a proper hand-washing protocol with your team. Hand sanitizers, which also might contain triclosan, are available in triclosan-free versions with alcohol as the active ingredient – look for at least 60% alcohol make sure to use enough to wet hands for at least 15 seconds.
1 Tiffany Kari, Colgate Total Ingredient Linked to Hormones, Cancer Spotlights FDA Process, (http://www.bloomberg.com/news), August 11, 2014