Question: For years the Food and Drug Administration has maintained that the antibacterial triclosan is safe. Now they’re backtracking and asking manufacturers that include triclosan in their products to prove it is safe and effective. What is your opinion of triclosan? – Internet Answer: Triclosan is a chlorinated aromatic compound that kills bacteria by breaking open their cell walls. Evidence from animal and test-tube studies has established that triclosan interferes with normal biochemistry and is not safe for human use. It inhibits fatty acid synthesis. It has been shown to be an endocrine disrupter that impairs thyroid function and alters estrogen levels. A series of experiments reported last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tracked the effects of triclosan on mice, fish, minnows and human cardiac and skeletal muscle. These experiments found triclosan hindered muscle contractions at the cellular level by impairing the flow of calcium into and out of the cells. Environmental studies have found that triclosan is toxic to aquatic life, especially algae. It has also been shown in test tubes to inhibit probiotic growth. Triclosan is now used in more than 90% of products labeled antibiotic or antimicrobial. It was initially used as a sterilizing agent in hospitals in the early 1970s. However manufacturers of personal care products seized the opportunity to exploit our national obsession with germs, and it is now found in soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, mouthwashes, hand-sanitizers and wipes, as well as kitchen utensils, toys, and just about anywhere else manufacturers hope it will boost their sales. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study noted that the number of antibacterial products had grown from a few dozen in the early 1990s to more than 700 in 2005. Triclosan now permeates tap water, breast milk, and the body fluids of ¾ of those tested in the US. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted a claim that triclosan helps to prevent gingivitis in Colgate toothpaste, there is scant evidence that triclosan is effective in protecting us against infectious disease. A 2007 article in Clinical Infectious Diseases concluded that antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over regular soaps. Environmental groups have been pressing the FDA to take action on triclosan for the past 35 years. The FDA has maintained, however, that although triclosan is toxic to animals, proof is lacking that it is toxic to humans. Of course such proof would be difficult to obtain since experimenting with suspected toxins on humans is unethical, and population studies lack sufficient scientific rigor. Finally, however, the FDA has proposed a rule that would force manufacturers of specific antibacterial products to provide proof that they are both safe and effective; if they can’t, triclosan and other antibacterials will be removed from the list of additives “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) and permitted in consumer products. However this rule would cover only consumer products like soaps and body-washes that use water (not handsanitizers, etc., or products used in hospitals), and the rule would probably not take effect until at least 2016. While we’re waiting to see what effect any of this may have, we need to be proactive. Triclosan is a toxic chemical that we need to avoid. Don’t buy antibacterial soaps, look for and avoid triclosan in other products, and use an infrared sauna to get stored triclosan out of your body. Use a reverse osmosis system to purify your drinking water of triclosan and other antibacterials.
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