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Triclosan: Efficacy

Despite their recent proliferation in consumer products, the use of antimicrobial agents such as Triclosan in consumer products has not been studied extensively. No data exist to support their efficacy when used in such products or any need for them…” American Medical Association (AMA) (2000)

The association between hand hygiene and prevention of infection has been well recognized. Antibacterial products are marketed with claims that they are ‘twice as effective as ordinary soap’ and ‘more effective at removing germs than conventional soaps.’ However, soaps and other sanitizers that contain Triclosan are not proven to be more effective in preventing normal household illnesses than ordinary soap and water.

A systematic review of research assessing the risks and potential benefits associated with the use of soaps containing Triclosan found that data do not support the effectiveness of Triclosan for reducing infectious disease symptoms or bacterial counts on the hands when used at the concentrations commonly found in consumer antibacterial hand soaps.

Here are some guidelines on keeping clean without antimicrobials

  1. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Regular soaps lower the surface tension of water, and thus wash away unwanted bacteria. Lather hands for at least 10 to 15 seconds and then rinse of in warm water. It is important to wash hands often, especially when handling food, before eating, after going to the bathroom, and when someone in your house is sick.
  2. Dry hands with a clean towel to help brush off any germs that did not get washed down the drain.
  3. Wash surfaces that come in contact with food with a detergent and water.
  4. Wash children’s hands and toys regularly to prevent infection.
  5. If washing with soap and water is not possible, use alcohol-based sanitizers.

Resources

  • Anti-microbial hand washes for domestic use (International Journal of Consumer Studies, 2001)
  • Hygiene of the Skin: When Is Clean Too Clean?(Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2001)
  • Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky? (Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2007)
  • Effect of Antibacterial Home Cleaning and Hand Washing Products on Infectious Disease Symptoms (Annals of Internal Medicine, 2004)

Alternatives

The use of products containing antibacterial compounds such as Triclosan give consumers a false sense of security because they have been shown to be unnecessary and ineffective, while the risks for human and environmental health continue to mount.

Beyond Pesticides recommends that you avoid using products containing Triclosan. Make sure to read the label first on all soaps, cosmetics and other household items, including toys. See list of products that contain Triclosan.