A study in 2013 on triclosan, an antibacterial pesticide, showed that exposure to it increased bacterial resistance and changed bacterial communities' composition. This added more evidence that the chemical is toxic to the environment and human health and must be banned.
Several companies have or plan to voluntarily move away from the substance:
- Reported in Beyond Pesticides on September 10, 2013, multinational Proctor and Gamble announced it "will eliminate the harmful antibacterial chemical triclosan from its products by 2014."
- In December 2013 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is giving companies with soaps containing triclosan to prove its safety within one year or remove it from shelves. The ruling only covers consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes used with water. Triclosan began selling in 1972 in U.S. markets before the FDA was established and was brought to their attention by consumer groups demanding action. The FDA did state in 2010 that it was "not aware of any evidence that antibacterial washes were superior to plain soap and water for reducing transmission of or preventing infection for consumers." It later stated "Existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients."
- In May 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was reviewing triclosan again during the year, five years earlier than previously scheduled.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testing for presence of triclosan in presence of human urine found it in three-fourths of the population tested, an increase by 42 percent since 2004. In March 2013 the governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, announced all state-run agencies would no longer buy products containing the chemical.
- Johnson and Johnson announced in August 2012 that it will phase out triclosan from its health care and cosmetics products.
- Colgate Palmolive announced in 2011 plans to reformulate to remove triclosan from many of its products but that Colgate Total toothpaste still contains it. Read labels. Proctor and Gamble's Crest does not.
- Other known companies who have begun phasing out triclosan are GlaxoSmithKline, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, and Staples.
Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor affecting male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It alters thyroid function and some studies found it and its metabolites present in umbilical cord blood and breast milk. It can react with tap water chlorine to form chloroform at significant rates.
The National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (Beyond Pesticides) reports that many triclosan-containing products' manufacturers claim triclosan works as much as 12 hours after use. That means its exposure to consumers lasts many hours longer than the seconds it is applied to wash faces and hands. Beyond Pesticides provides extensive documentation of triclosan's potential human and environmental health effects and of its cousin triclocarban.
A study in the Chicago area, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology showed triclosan changed the abundance of cyanobacterial sesequence in stream beds by about six times causing a "dramatic die off of algae." The bottom dwelling bacteria drive organic material breakdown which transforms nutrients feeding plants and algae and impacts the aquatic food web. Triclosan is entering aquatic ecosystems of streams, rivers, and lakes mostly through household waste water and leaking sewage.
What you can do is sign the ban triclosan pledge to stop using products with triclosan. Read the labels of especially hand soaps, toothpaste, clothing, fabrics, kitchenware, deodorants, cosmetics, plastics, and toys. Encourage local schools, government, and businesses including your place of employment to stop buying products containing the chemical.