Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Got a few free hours this week? Then you might want to spend them reading the labels on your various beauty/personal care products and tossing out anything that contains triclosan.

An antibacterial and antifungal agent, triclosan has long been criticised for the negative impact it might be having on the water system (not all water treatment plants remove down the chemical, which is toxic to many forms of aquatic life) as well as its connection to antibiotic resistance (in 2009, the Canadian Medical Association called for banning it for household use).

But it’s the chemical’s possible impact on the human body, it’s a suspected carcinogenic, that’s put it back in the spotlight. The Toxic Program Manager with Environmental Defence recently ran a small study that showed that seven out of eight of its human volunteers carried levels of triclosan that were not only detectable in their urine but also, on average, above the level that’s toxic to aquatic animals. While this study was quite small and the first of its kind in Canada, previous US studies have showed similar results.

The study was spurred by a preliminary review of triclosan that was recently wrapped up by federal government. According to this review, triclosan doesn’t pose a risk to human health at current levels of use. However, the federal government is going to discuss the idea of voluntary reduction in the use of triclosan with the personal care industry.

Until that happens, you might want to put your own reduction in place. According to this Montreal Gazette piece, “1,600 cosmetics and personal care products in Canada” contain triclosan and if you love anything labelled “antibacterial” you might find that you own a lot of things that contain this chemical.

I found it lurking in a bottle of Clean & Clear’s Foaming Facial Cleanser I picked up earlier this year. While I did read the label prior to buying it, I didn’t remember that triclosan was a bad thing.  For awhile I was using this product several times a week until something clicked in my brain and I remembered the antibiotic resistance connection. I then scaled back my use of this product to only after particularly sweaty sessions at the gym or on the dance floor (and the fact that the bottle made it to mid-May and was still almost half full tells you how often those happen).

But after reading The Toxic Program Manager with Environmental Defence’s report, that face wash is now in the garbage and I will now definitely be remembering what triclosan is.

Yes, yes, I know, everything causes cancer. But not everything kills fish and while Clean & Clear’s Foaming Facial Cleanser was an effective face wash, there are others out there that are just as good and triclosen-free.

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