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What's In It Wednesday: Taking another look at triclosan

I was writing up an article for the (seed) blog, which I write for each week. By the way, (seed) is my favorite body care company and I have been a loyal fan of Rebecca and Benjamin Gournay's company since I first tried it out a few years back.

 The topic is the fact that so many people fall victim to the ANTI-BACTERIAL hype.

As a mom, I like to think I am doing the absolute best I can to keep my children safe.  Safe from harm, bad people, and all of society's ills--just to name a few.  One thing I have done quite easily over the years is make informed choices about the ingredients we use in our personal care products.

For most of Nick's childhood and for all of Ben's, we have avoided parabens and sulfates. When I became more informed, phthalates and formaldehyde releasers were added to the list. They don't ever use items with petrochemicals. Artificial fragrance is off the list...

And triclosan. It is a dirty word in this house!

What is triclosan? Why is it so harmful?

Let's look!

Germs. They’re everywhere. We all know that handwashing is imporant. I wash my hands so many times per day I couldn’t even give you an estimate of the number of times I am washing my hands. I have always been a frequent handwasher. I don’t like getting sick. No one does.

I remember once when I was working for Estee Lauder at a department store at Eastview and  being in the bathroom scrubbing my hands…a makeup artist from another line (it was Clinique) was in the bathroom and didn’t wash her hands. Ten minutes later, she was applying eyeliner to a customer. I think this is why, at times, I can be somewhat of a germophobe, but also why I get so paranoid about cleanliness that I did my own makeup for my wedding–I could never get that image out of my head.

Our son, Nicholas, was a preemie. Thankfully he was healthy and only required a few extra days beyond the norm in the hospital. I was so concerned about people touching him once we arrived home that if I could’ve put a plastic bubble around us, I would’ve. I made sure everyone washed their hands. I stocked up on 5 and 6 bottles at a time of  a heavy anti-bacterial hand soap and placed a bottle at each sink and made all visitors scrub their hands with it.
I used to walk into Bath & Body Works and walk out with all sorts of anti-bacterial soaps in everything from Warm Vanilla Sugar to Coconut Lime Verbena. Let's just say that this was before I started this blog!

I thought if we washed our hands often with this germ killing soap, that I could shield our family from ever getting sick.

Reality set in and I really started researching these things more and more. I had already been using a natural bar soap on my body but still thought that I needed that special germ fighting soap. After researching what exactly is in these anti-bacterial hand washes, we stopped using them probably 7 or 8 years ago in this household.

First of all, it is important to note that bacteria isn’t horrible. There are actually good forms of it. What happens is that people get so worried about germs that they end up getting rid of healthy bacteria. Triclosan is the active ingredient in anti-bacterial products, including these hand soaps. By the way, triclosan is a cholorphenol (a pesticide linked to cancer). While using this in an appropriate environment-say a hospital-may very well be necessary, it isn’t if you live in a healthy home.

You may have clean hands, but you may also be doing more harm than good. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk of allergies because of weakened immunity. ”Super bugs” have become more prevalent, and because of unnecessary use of these products, diseases are becoming more resistant to antibiotics (as in the case of MRSA).

Triclosan has also been shown to linger on the skin–in other words, you believe you’re rinsing it down the drain, but it continues to sit on the skin and kill bacteria. What you end up with is a greater chance of becoming ill and resistant to treatment because your healthy bacteria isn’t there to fight the nasties. It’s not just that–I have been reading more and more about triclosan. While there haven’t yet been conclusive results and multiple studies, there is research being done with potential links between triclosan and autism because it interferes with myelination in the brain. This has prompted researchers to start studying a possible link between triclosan and Alzheimers.

By the way, if you’re a breastfeeding mom and use anti-bacterial products, the triclosan does get into the breastmilk.

You cannot avoid triclosan altogether, though. While you can choose regular soap and water and non anti-bac hand washes (which the FDA says are equally as effective at getting rid of germs), triclosan is present in almost 70% of our rivers, lakes and streams. It is killing marine life and affecting our entire eco-system.
In fact, a new study was just published about the environmental impact of triclosan acknowledges the lingering effects may be worse than thought.  Triclosan, by the way, is also present in many deodorants, some toothpastes, and several mouth washes.


For more, I recommend reading the EWG’s Guide to Triclosan by clicking here.
Contact Bath & Body Works. Tell them to stop promoting their toxic anti-bac line!