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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

ASK DR. DESAI ~ Tips for buying green personal care products

In this third installment, I will discuss an ubiquitous antibacterial agent that you need to avoid in products—Triclosan.

What is Triclosan?
Triclosan, (Chemical Name: 2,4,4’-Trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether; CAS# 3380-34-5) is a synthetic chemical that was first registered with the EPA as a pesticide in 1964.

What is the purpose of Triclosan in personal care products?
Triclosan works by inhibiting an enzyme called enoyl-acyl carrier protein reductase enzyme (ENR), which is an essential enzyme in fatty acid synthesis in bacteria. The fatty acids are essential for building cell membranes of bacterial cells and for reproduction in bacteria. Triclosan is a very potent inhibitor and is needed in trace amounts for its antibacterial action.

What kind of products is Triclosan found in?
Triclosan has been used for over 40 years in a wide variety of personal care products such as antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, fabrics, plastics (toys, toothbrushes) and other products such as floor sealants, adhesives, etc. It is marketed under the trade name Microban® when used in plastics clothing and Biofresh® when used in acrylic fibers.

What health risks are associated with Triclosan?
Triclosan has been shown to be absorbed through the skin and as a potential endocrine disruptive substance. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists has detected Triclosan in the urine of 75% of 2517 people ages 6 and older who were tested. The European Union has found Triclosan to be an irritant to the skin and eyes and is very toxic to aquatic organisms. In the US, the FDA issued a draft guideline on chemicals used in soaps and scrubs in 1978, which stated that “that triclosan was not generally recognized as safe and effective,” because regulators could not find enough scientific research demonstrating its safety and effectiveness. However, the draft was never finalized. Since then the has FDA published several revisions to the guidelines but again the results were never finalized. The FDA along with the EPA recently evaluated all the scientific evidence published on Triclosan and was to issue its report on Triclosan in 2012, however this report was delayed. The FDA’s website states that “currently there is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.” In addition, the FDA issued a proposed rule on December 16, 2013 that would require manufacturers to provide more substantial data to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps.

In the meantime, try and choose formulas that are Triclosan free, however, buyer beware, while they may be Triclosan free, those products may contain other ingredients that you need to avoid as well.

So stay tuned for the next monthly installment of this series to learn about what else you need to be on the lookout for and avoid.

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