Antimicrobials and Antibacterials

Join the fight to ban triclosan!

Beyond Pesticides is leading a campaign to ban the non-medical uses of one of the most prevalent and dangerous antibacterial chemicals on the market: triclosan. Triclosan has been linked to numerous health and environmental effects, such as antibacterial resistance, endocrine disruption and the contamination of fish, surface and drinking waters. Find out more about triclosan and how you can protect yourself and your family by visiting the triclosan page.

What are antimicrobials?

Antimicrobials are natural or synthetic substances which kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi. This capability makes antimicrobials unique for the control of deadly infectious diseases caused by a large variety of pathogenic bacteria.

There are more than 15 different classes of antimicrobials known that differ in chemical structure and mechanism of action. They are historically used in medical settings to combat infectious diseases. However, over the last 20 years, they have been used increasingly in cosmetics, personal care products, in food processing, on inanimate objects, clothing, and for the treatment of bacterial disease in animals, fish, and plants.

Antimicrobials are pesticides and must be regulated as such with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in accordance with the Federal Insecticides, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). There are more than 5000 antimicrobial pesticides registered with the EPA. When used in or on the human body, however, antimicrobials are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Even though antimicrobial and antibacterial are often used interchangeably, there are many antimicrobial substances on the market designed to work specifically against bacteria. These are known as antibacterials.

Triclosan - One antibacterial most debated is triclosan. Triclosan is a broad spectrum pesticide found is a wide range of consumer products, including soaps and toys. Despite its wide-spread use, its health and environmental impacts are only now being studied. Triclosan is the focus of a campaign undertaken by a coalition of health and environmental groups led by Beyond Pesticides, aimed at removing triclosan from the market.

Nanosilver - Another antibacterial agent under scrutiny is silver nanoparticles or nanosilver. Silver nanoparticles are also found in a wide range of consumer products like clothing, band-aids, and even washing machines. A recent petition submitted by environmental groups call for urgent review of this new technology.

With an increasing number of scientific studies looking at these antibacterial substances, two basic, yet important, questions arise: Are they safe for human health and the environment? And are they necessary?