Antibacterial Hand Soaps with Triclosan

Posted by on Jun 7, 2014 in Health | Comments Off on Antibacterial Hand Soaps with Triclosan

Antibacterial Hand Soaps with Triclosan

If you’ve ever washed your hands with antibacterial hand soap there’s a good chance you were rubbing triclosan into your skin. The state of Minnesota just signed a bill to prohibit the use of triclosan in most consumer products. There have been a few studies that raise concern for the human use of triclosan in things like antibacterial soaps (one of the most common uses of the chemical). 

The American Cleaning Institute had urged the Governor of Minnesota to veto the new bill, saying triclosan has been thoroughly researched and shown to provide important health benefits. Here’s the rub… it only provided a benefit in things like toothpaste (to prevent gingivitis). The FDA may not have proven definitively that antibacterial soap is safe, but, after 42 years of research and independent studies, they have proven it has no benefit over plain soap and water. This statement is from the agency’s own website

For other consumer products, FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.

Those of you that know me closely know that I’m not a big fan of soaps. I only use them on my hands when there’s greasy dirt to be removed, between seeing patients or before performing a sterile procedure. In fact, I’m hesitant to use anything on my skin that I wouldn’t put in my mouth and eat. Read the label on those products and tell me if any of them sound appetizing.

The skin is a remarkable organ and able to absorb certain chemicals and deliver them to our blood stream. In my practice I use this property of skin to deliver hormones to individuals who are deficient. It works very well, in fact topical hormone creams are one of my favorite modes of delivery since we can bypass the liver (one function of our liver is to metabolize hormones and inactivate them).

Most of the studies were done in animals or invitro (a test tube). Some might say we need more studies to determine if it is safe for humans to use. I’d rather accept the fact that it provides no benefit and leave it out all together.

In multiple animal studies, triclosan has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system, the complex interplay of hormones that regulate most aspects of an animal’s growth and reproduction. Exposure to triclosan has been shown to reduce sperm count in male fish, speed up the onset of puberty in female mice, and decrease the presence of thyroid hormones in male rats. Because of these findings in animal studies, the FDA and EPA are collaborating on research to study the drug’s effect on the human endocrine system.

There’s already some evidence of human side effects, though: a small study in Norway showed that children with higher concentrations of triclosan in their urine (a measure of triclosan exposure) were more likely to develop seasonal allergies.


Our family uses soaps free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan, and formaldehyde. One of our favorites is Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Hand Soap. 

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