Toxicology Reflections


What risk does triclosan pose to human health?

Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical first used in surgical disinfectants in the early 1970’s but its use has steadily increased and can now be found in a variety of personal care and consumer products (e.g., antibacterial soap, mouthwash, deoderant, textiles, plastic kitchenware). Triclosan has received a great deal of attention from the media and interest groups due to studies indicating that triclosan exposure may cause adverse effects to human health. A few examples of triclosan in the media are linked below.

The media and interest groups identify a number of pathways in which triclosan may cause adverse effects to human health. The most common adverse effect mentioned is the ability of triclosan to act as an endocrine disruptor. It has also been mentioned that triclosan in water can be transformed into chloroform (known human carcinogen) due to the chlorination of drinking water or various dioxins due to UV light exposure. There is also a concern that triclosan may indireclty affect human health by promoting antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

What I hope to do in these series of posts is to quantify the risk that realistic daily exposure to triclosan poses to human health, and thus determine whether a ban of triclosan, which many are callign for, is based in science or public fear created by interest groups and the media.