When I go out to give talks about toxic chemicals, people often ask me about antibacterial products, and if they’re actually safe. Today we are launching The Trouble with Triclosan to answer that very question. (Short answer: no.)
When I go out to give talks about toxic chemicals, people often ask me about antibacterial products, and if they’re actually safe. Today we are launching The Trouble with Triclosan
to answer that very question. (Short answer: no.)
One of the most common chemicals in anti-bacterial products is a hormone disruptor called triclosan. When I started doing research about it, I found that while Americans had been tested for triclosan in their bodies, we didn’t know how common it is in Canadian adults.
So I got on the phone, and recruited eight Canadians to be tested. Our study volunteers hail from Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Cornwall and Montreal, and work in diverse professions—a midwife, a chef, a journalist, an environmental scientist, two musicians, a filmmaker and a political strategist all stepped forward.
When the results came back, I was dismayed (but not shocked) to find that all but one of them had triclosan in their bodies. You can read the full results in the report
, which contains the first publicly available data on triclosan levels in Canadian adults.
What do our results mean? With triclosan appearing in seven of our eight volunteers, it’s clear that its use in consumer products is too widespread. The average amount of triclosan in our volunteers was found to be above the level at which triclosan is toxic to marine organisms
, including certain species of algae, crustaceans and fish. And remember, all the triclosan in our homes and bodies goes down the drain, into our rivers and lakes, affecting the water we depend on for life.
We’ve been raising the alarm about this hormone disrupting chemical since the publication of Slow Death by Rubber Duck
, co-authored by our Executive Director Dr. Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.
For his own research, Dr. Smith used a set of common personal care and cleaning products containing triclosan for two days. Dr. Smith’s own triclosan levels shot up from 2.47 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL) to 7,180 ng/mL. To put this in perspective, triclosan is harmful to algae and certain species of frogs at levels below Dr. Smith’s starting point.
Thankfully, a process is underway that may protect Canadians and the environment from continued exposure to this toxic chemical. On March 30, Health Canada and Environment Canada published a draft assessment of triclosan. It concluded that the chemical can cause harm to the environment. A voluntary ban on the use of triclosan is one of the options being considered.
The publication of the draft assessment kicked off an official comment period. We at Environmental Defence hope The Trouble with Triclosan
can contribute. We’re also not alone in wanting a mandatory household ban. The Canadian Medical Association has also called for one
Consumers should avoid products with triclosan. And the government can help, by banning the use of triclosan in household products. This would protect the health of Canadians, as well as the health of fish, wildlife and the environment, from continued exposure to this nasty chemical.
For more information, download our Guide to Triclosan
, or a copy of the report
. Support the call for a ban on triclosan by signing our petition
, and sharing it with your friends and family. Triclosan is unnecessary and unhealthy, and there’s no time like the present to kick it out of Canadian products.