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Anti-Bacterial Products

Many products which are labeled "anti-bacterial" or "anti-microbial" contain triclosan, a chemical with significant health and environmental impacts. Triclosan (also known as Microban, Irgasan, or Ultra-Fresh,) breaks down into dioxin, a chemical that has been classified as a probable human carcinogen, and is also known to be an endocrine disruptor. Triclosan can also break down into chloroform, a probable carcinogen.


Triclosan's use as a pesticide is regulated by the EPA, but its use in cosmetics, soaps, and other personal care products is monitored by the FDA, which has placed virtually no regulations on its use. Many European nations have either banned or severely restricted the use of triclosan in their consumer products.

Washing Hands

Numerous studies show that washing with regular soap and hot water is just as effective at removing germs as using products containing triclosan. For situations where washing isn't possible, a new generation of hand cleaners and bio-based anti-bacterial hand wipes are now on the market.


Beyond Pesticides is a national non-profit organization focused on alerting the public to the dangers of pesticides and supporting safe alternatives. They have put together an informative fact sheet on triclosan.

The FDA issued a final rule on safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps in 2016, and banned triclosan and triclocarban from over-the-counter antibacterial hand and body washes.

Womens' Voices for the Earth have produced a simple fact sheet on triclosan.


[1] Dhillon, G., et al. (2015). Triclosan, Current status, Occurrence, Environmental Risks, and Bioaccumulation Potential. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(5), 5657-5784.

[2] Braun, J. M., et al. (2016). What Can Epidemiological Studies Tell Us about the Impact of Chemical Mixtures on Human Health? Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(1). 

[3] Heck, J. E., et al. (2014). Risk of leukemia in relation to exposure to ambient air toxics in pregnancy and early childhood. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 217(6), 662-668.

[4] Taştan, B. E., et al. (2017). Toxicity assessment of pesticide triclosan by aquatic organisms and degradation studies. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 91, 208-215.

[5] United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2017). Triclosan.

[6] Minnesota Department of Health. (2016, December 2). Which Soap is Best?

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