Today Postmedia is reporting that the federal government will be announcing the preliminary screening assessment of triclosan, an anti-bacterial chemical that has been shown to be toxic to fish and wildlife, and raises additional concerns for human health. If the government takes action to restrict the use of triclosan, it will be an important step forward in protecting the environment and human health from toxic substances.
Environmental Defence has long been pushing for better controls on triclosan, and the chemical was featured in Slow Death by Rubber Duck co-authored by our Executive Director Dr. Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. We have voiced concern through the Just Beautiful campaign; triclosan is included in our Toxic Ten, a list of ingredients for consumers to avoid when purchasing personal care products.
Triclosan is used in hundreds of products, from hand sanitizers to makeup and even smartphone cases. The Canadian Medical Association called for it to be banned from consumer products, and the American Medical Association has recommended consumers avoid products containing triclosan, out of concern that it may be contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, also known as "superbugs". Triclosan is also a known endocrine disruptor -- interfering with the human body's natural hormones. Many endocrine disruptors have been linked to thyroid problems and cancer.
Triclosan persists in the environment, washing down drains to pollute rivers and lakes. Triclosan has been shown to be toxic to fish, amphibians, and rats. In addition to the effects of triclosan itself, its breakdown products include the human carcinogens chloroform, and dioxins, one of the most toxic groups of substances known. Every time we wash our hands or brush our teeth with products containing triclosan, more of this hormone disrupting chemical goes down the drain, resulting in the pollution of waterways which not only impacts our physical environment and animal life, but also human health.
Environmental Defence strongly supports the call for a ban on the household use of triclosan. We hope that this ingredient will soon be off the shelves of our supermarkets and drug stores, so consumers will have one less toxic chemical too look out for.