A call to ban triclosan

The Canadian Medical Association has called on the country’s government to ban all antibacterial household products due to the possibility they may cause bacterial resistance. Additionally, they may also pose a serious threat to the environment.

When bacteria become resistant to disinfecting agents, more potent chemicals need to be used and it could reach a point where nothing is effective.

One of the most popular anti-bacterial agents used in so many products is triclosan. Once only used in hospitals as part of pre-surgical preparation, this stuff is now everywhere – I’ve mentioned it in articles relating to:

Kitchen sponges
Household disinfectants
Toilet cleaners
Baby wipes

… and that’s just scratching the surface. Chances are any mainstream commercial product you have in your cupboards that claims anti-bacterial properties has triclosan in it.

While the CMA is primarily concerned about the bacterial resistance aspect, according to a related article, we’re using so much of it and it is so persistent, it’s even showing up in breast milk.

What the long term environmental effects of our triclosan love affair will be is hard to say as it’s only in recent years it seems to have become the chemical of choice in so many anti-bacterial products.

The article goes on to state that triclosan can react to chlorine in drinking water and form chloroform, a known carcinogen. Furthermore, when triclosan reacts with light, it can form dioxins; some of the most poisonous substances known to man.
Triclosan has also been shown to cause deformities in frogs. Given that most of the products we use containing triclosan wind up in our drains and water treatment facilities can’t filter it out; it’s not good news for the aquatic environment.