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Triclosan: Is it safe?

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jun 25, 2020.

The answer is probably.

Triclosan is a chemical with antibacterial properties. For decades, triclosan has been added to personal care products, such as hand soaps and cosmetics, and materials ranging from athletic clothing to food packaging. When you use a product containing triclosan, you can absorb a small amount through your skin or mouth.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that triclosan is not generally recognized as safe and effective for antiseptic products intended for use in health care settings. In 2016, the FDA also banned over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products containing triclosan from being marketed to consumers. These products include liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes. The basis of the ban was that manufacturers haven't proved that triclosan is safe for daily use over a long period.

The FDA's steps follow recent studies that have raised questions about whether triclosan is hazardous to human health. Research has shown that triclosan:

  • Alters hormone regulation in animals
  • Might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs
  • Might be harmful to the immune system

Triclosan isn't an essential ingredient in many products. Triclosan added to toothpaste has been shown to help prevent gingivitis. However, there's no evidence that antibacterial soaps and body washes containing triclosan provide any benefit over plain soap and water, according to the FDA.

If you're concerned about triclosan, check your products' ingredient lists.

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