FDA to investigate Triclosan | Triclosan already banned in the EU

Antibacterial soap

Handwashing without Triclosan antibacterial soaps is just as effective. Image from Flickr.

The FDA announced today that it will be “looking into studies” that question the safety of widely-used antibiotic Triclosan. The FDA is not currently recommending that Triclosan be avoided, though the study findings will not be released until next year. In the European Union, Triclosan is already banned from any products that come into contact with food. What is the problem with Triclosan, and should you use cash today to replace your soap with Triclosan? Not necessarily, though you may not need Triclosan in the first place.

What is Triclosan?

Triclosan is a chemical that has been used for the last 30 years as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent. Triclosan is usually found in antibacterial soaps. However, Triclosan was also included in some toothpastes in 1997. Triclosan is also used in children’s toys, clothing, plastic products, and many home products. By including Triclosan, manufacturers are able to market their products as “antibacterial.”

Is Triclosan safe?

Triclosan was originally approved for use as an antibacterial in topical applications (like hand soaps) 30 years ago. In 1997, the FDA conducted a study in response to a request to include Triclosan in toothpaste. The results of that study were that Triclosan was safe, and “enhanced” the ability of toothpaste to fight gum disease. However, Triclosan has been banned from any products that come into contact with food in the European Union.

Why is the FDA reviewing Triclosan?

Encouraged by Edward Markey, a democratic congressman, the FDA announced on its web site that it would review the safety of Triclosan. The FDA review will encompass two different areas – the effectiveness of Triclosan, and the ability of Triclosan to alter hormone levels. Some studies suggest that Triclosan, as well as many other antibiotic agents, may increase bacterial resistance. This increased resistance decreases the effectiveness of many antibiotics and has helped lead to hard-to-kill bacteria such as MRSA. There are also studies that suggest repeated heavy exposure to Triclosan may alter hormone levels in some animals.

Should I quit using Triclosan?

Triclosan is generally accepted as safe to use as a topical antibacterial agent. However, multiple studies by the FDA and independent agencies have found that antibacterial soaps are no more effective than soaps without antibacterial chemicals. A thorough hand washing that lasts at least 20 seconds is enough to remove most bacteria. The FDA will release the findings about Triclosan later this year. Either way, handwashing – with or without Triclosan-enhanced soaps – is the first and most important step in staying healthy.


The Associated Press

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