Doing More Harm Than Good

Doing More Harm Than Good

A group of more than 200 scientists and medical professionals has issued a consensus statement in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives urging that antimicrobial chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban should not be used in consumer products.  The experts say that these substances offer no health benefits and are actually causing health and environmental harm.

The two chemicals were banned by the FDA last September for use in over-the-counter antiseptic wash products based on insufficient evidence of their safety in long-term use and their effectiveness in reducing the spread of illness and infection.  However, they are still used in a wide range of everyday products like toothpaste, detergents, clothing, toys, school supplies, carpets, exercise mats, food storage containers, kitchenware, and counter tops.

The scientists’ statement notes that the substances end up in the environment and persist there becoming a source of many toxic and carcinogenic compounds.  Both triclosan and triclocarban bioaccumulate in aquatic plants and animals and have detrimental effects on them.

Human epidemiology and animals studies suggest that triclosan exposure can increase sensitivity to allergens and overuse of the substance can contribute to antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance.

While these substances are now restricted in use for certain types of soaps, they have no restrictions for use in other products.   The scientists are urging governments, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to avoid the use of these chemical except where they provide an evidence-based health benefit.  They also urge that all products that contain these chemicals should be labeled as such.  Where antimicrobials are necessary, they recommend using safer alternatives that are not persistent in the environment and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems.



Web Links

The Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban

Photo, posted September 5, 2016, courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr.


‘Antibacterials’ from Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

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