Tuesday 15 February 2011

Dangers of the Anti-bacterial Triclosan

Forgive me if I'm being naive here but when it comes to washing your hands I was of the belief that a good bit of (SLS-free) soap and hot water would give you a nice squeaky clean that would see you through, especially if you wash your hands thoroughly, going around the fingers and nails, interlacing your fingers, tickling your palms, even taking it to the wrists! Maybe you like to pretend you have a little hamster running from hand to hand. And after drying on a clean towel you can't really get cleaner than that, right?

Well, in recent years, you may have doubted this simple truth. There are ridiculous adverts on TV designed to bring out the OCD in all of us, where washing hands is simply not enough. And even one warning you that your soap pump is germy and unhygienic. Doesn't really matter if it is right, because I'm washing my hands. My soap pump can be as germy as it likes because I'm going to wash those germs right off any second now. Obviously no one wants to be crawling with bacteria but is filling our cleaning or cleansing products with anti-bacterial agents the answer? Manufacturers of triclosan would have you believe that it's perfectly safe but it is currently under review by the FDA for very good reasons.

Triclosan is included in many toiletries like hand soap, detergents, toothpaste etc. and is supposed to give those bad bugs an extra kick up their bug bums that apparently soap and water can't do. But as it gets washed down the plug hole it gets washed up into the environment and has been found accumulating in the bodies of all sorts of critters. The higher up the food chain to goes, the higher these levels get. Apparently a Swedish study in 2002 found high levels in 3 out of 5 samples of human breast milk. Flipping heck! It belongs to a class of chemicals called chlorophenols which are suspected of causing cancer. And if that wasn't enough it seems to have strong links to dioxins, which are definitely highly carcinogenic substances which can effect us at relatively low levels. AND Triclosan can react with chlorine in tap water to create chlorinated dioxins, also highly toxic. These toxins could be sitting in your kitchen sink right now. 

Recently, (I'm really laying it on thick here) an article in the Daily Mail discussed how Triclosan is dangerous to pregnant women, as it can disrupt the blood flow to unborn babies, doing damage even before the baby gets a chance to get to that triclosan flavoured milk.

There might be some case to support it's use in hospitals where superbugs are concerned but there is little to support it's inclusion in household products. It even turns up in toys and kitchenware as part of this fad of anti-bacterial obsessiveness.Who needs an antibacterial oven dish, seriously!? If you're foods got bugs in that cooking won't kill then only God and Andrex can help you.

It's also worth noting that too much hygiene can actually lead to allergies and health conditions such as asthma, as the developing immune system doesn't get exposed to common allergens and microbes and therefore cannot defend against them when exposure occurs.

If you ask me, triclosan is worth getting paranoid about, not the silly germs they are supposed to kill. So check your labels people and avoid, avoid, avoid!!! Rant over.


  1. Another great post and may I recommend a few drops of tea tree in some hot water is a very efficient antibacterial surface cleaner if thats what you're after.

    Do antibac hand gels also have this nasty in? Its bothered me for a while that I could be caking all sorts of chemicals over my paws - I have picked up 'Quash' which is a much safer alternative....

    Katy x

  2. I think anything that says anti-bacterial is worth reading the label carefully! But some hand gels may work from just using alcohol to sterilise though this destroys the natural barrier of skin and can lead to dryness and chapping which makes skin more vulnerable to infection. So worth avoiding those too!

    Looking at Quash, it seems to take it's anti-bacterial action from manuka honey and radish root ferment, and contains no chemical ingredients. It says it's lab proven so I guess that is the best option.

    Here are some interesting links

    And the Quash site

    Interesting point on the first website- tea tree oil could be used to make your own hand spray as well!

    Good comments, thank you!

  3. this can cause bacteria to become more resistant to anti-biotics. this is a bad chemical!

    its creating powerful super bugs that take a lot more effort to fight. like staph infections and c. diff associated diarrhea.