Triclosan

Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent, it is used in cosmetic and personal care products to prevent or slow down growth of bacteria and fungus and to prevent odours. Additionally, it is used as a material preservative in textiles, rubber materials, paper, plastic and etc.

Chemical And Physical Properties

IUPAC name: 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol

Formula: C7H7Cl3O2

Physical state and appearance: solid

Colour: White to off-white crystalline powder

Odor: Slight, faintly aromatic odor

Molar Mass: 289.54 g/mol

Density: 1.49 g/cm3

Melting Point: 54 - 57°C

Boiling Point: 374°C

pKa: 7.9

Vapour Pressure: 5.33 × 10-4 Pa


Solubility in water: 10mg/L at 20°C

Solubility in other solvents: readily soluble in alkaline solutions and many organic solvents

Volatility: low

Approximately 1600 cosmetic and personal care products and 150 health products containing triclosan are sold in Canada!

Used in:

  • toothpastes
  • liquid soaps
  • dish washing liquids
  • mouth washes, face washes
  • hand sanitizers
  • surgical cleaning scrubs
  • shaving gels
  • deodorants
  • detergents,
  • socks,
  • toys
  • plastic kitchenware
  • cutting boards

Restrictions

Maximum amount acceptable:

  • 0.03% in mouthwash
  • 0.3% in other products
  • 1.0% in personal care products that are regulated as a drug

As of January 1st 2015, triclosan is no longer registered for use as a pesticide in Canada.

Health Benefits

Initially it was used as a surgical scrub but in 1997 triclosan was approved for toothpastes and other personal care products due to evidence that it helped Colgate Total toothpaste reduce and prevent plaque and gingivitis. Companies used antibacterial labels to boast sales, however current studies show for most other products there are no health benefits of triclosan. According to the FDA report, usage of soap and water to wash hands is just as effective as using antibacterial soaps.

Impacts on Health

According to Health Canada:
  • Considered safe as for most Canadians, including the vulnerable sector (pregnant women, children and seniors) levels of exposure are too low to be harmful
  • No evidence proving usage of products containing triclosan leads to antimicrobial resistance


According to reports by US EPA:
  • more than 75% of the population have triclosan in their body (urine, breast milk, blood)
  • directly absorbed into skin and to bloodstream
  • endocrine disruptor - mimics the thyroid hormone thyroxin
  • extensive exposure can increase cancer risks
  • Fat soluble so it can accumulate in body fats
  • irritating to skin and eyes
Some animal studies suggest triclosan promoted breast cancer in cells in labs, weakened muscles and exposure to triclosan during fetal development caused neurological damage in rats.

Canadian Medical Association advise banning usage in households due to its link to development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Environmental Impact

95% of products containing triclosan are washed down the drain and waste water treatments are unable to fully remove the pesticide therefore, it gets released into surface water. Triclosan is very toxic for aquatic organism especially algae and certain fish species. As it does not break down easily, it can accumulate in the fats of marine organisms and eventually turn into carcinogens dioxin and chloroform.

Alternatives

  • avoid antibacterial products as they provide no extra benefits
  • regular soap and water for washing hands
  • essential oils
Minnesota issued ban on triclosan and law states, “In order to prevent the spread of infectious disease and avoidable infections and to promote best practices in sanitation, no person shall offer for retail sale in Minnesota any cleaning product that contains triclosan and is used by consumers for sanitizing or hand and body cleansing."