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Triclosan: Uses and Side Effects

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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

Triclosan, also known as TCS, is an antibacterial and antifungal ingredient that is added to many consumer products in order to prevent and reduce bacterial contamination. It is also used in soaps, toothpaste, toys, and surgical instruments. Triclosan’s usage and mechanism of action are very similar to Triclocarban’s. Triclocarban, also known as TCC, is an antibacterial chemical that is used in soaps, detergents, and toothpaste.

In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of triclosan in toothpaste and discovered that it was very effective in reducing gingivitis. Gingivitis, in general, is a disease that causes inflamed gums.

Studies have shown that high levels of Triclosan exposure reduce thyroid hormone levels. It has already been shown to be very effective in reducing bacterial infections in some products. Though companies will no longer be able to use Triclosan on their products without pre-market review and approval. The main reason is that there is no clear-cut evidence that Triclosan is not harmful to human health.

Uses of Triclosan

Triclosan is very effective against different types of bacteria and fungi. In today’s world, it is widely used in many Over-the-counter products like soap, body washes, and toothpaste and it is also being used in non-OTC products like toys, textiles, and kitchen wear. Triclosan is majorly used in food production, health care, cosmetics, and other consumer products. Now, let’s discuss the usage of Triclosan:

Triclosan in Food production: Triclosan will be used in food containers, on top of food storage boxes, and on the surface of cutting boards to prevent bacteria growth. The SCF – Scientific Committee of Food – and EFSA – European Food Safety Authority – have set a triclosan limit of 5mg per kg of food. In March 2010, the commission decided that triclosan would no longer be included in the list of addictive substances.

Triclosan in health care: Seeing as triclosan is very effective at killing microorganisms, it is also used in health care. For example, most hospital hand washes contain triclosan, and patients with MRSA – Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – are also washed with triclosan in hospitals. Medical devices also contain triclosan, such as it is coated on surgical sutures that will gradually dissolve. It is also used in urinary stents and has been shown to reduce the occurrence of urinary infections.

Triclosan in Cosmetics: Triclosan is also used as a preservative in cosmetics to prevent bacterial growth. As it is effective in killing and preventing bacteria, it is also used in other cosmetic products such as soaps, body washes, deodorants, and even shampoo. As more triclosan exposure is harmful to the human body, 0.3 percent of it is added to all products such as soaps, body washes, and toothpaste. However, people who use multiple triclosan-containing products may be exposed to more than 0.3 percent, which is not recommended. 

Triclosan in other consumer products: Triclosan is also found in a variety of other products such as textiles, toys, and carpets. It is widely used on textiles because the fabric has the ability to store biocide and thus prevent bacteria for an extended period of time. We can also say that triclosan is a textile finishing product. A survey on soaps was conducted in 2007 and discovered that soaps with less than 1% triclosan are not able to stand out with bacteria, whereas soaps with more than 1% triclosan have the ability to reduce bacterial levels.

Negative Effects of Triclosan

Despite its many uses in killing and preventing bacteria, triclosan has serious consequences for human health. These health issues may occur whether we absorb triclosan knowingly or unknowingly. That is, it can enter our bodies via the skin pores or the mouth. These exposures will cause rough, dry skin, rashes, and skin irritation, especially in children. 

  • Triclosan may also cause water pollution when we wash our hands or bodies and the water flows into rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. The persistent nature of triclosan causes long-term water pollution. 
  • Triclosan has also been confirmed to be lipophilic, which means it has the ability to accumulate in human fat, resulting in traces of triclosan in blood and urine samples. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, triclosan is present in 58 percent of US waterways. 
  • Recent research has also discovered that triclosan interferes with the body’s thyroid hormone and is an endocrine disruptor. Children who are exposed to triclosan during the early stages are more likely to develop asthma and eczema. 
  • According to the Food and Drug Administration, Triclosan has a high risk of altering hormones, uncontrolled cell growth, weakened immune systems, miscarriages, and even cancer.
  • Studies have shown that anti-bacterial products may prevent the growth of bacteria, but are far more harmful to human health.

Triclosan In India

After all of these activities began in the United States and other countries, a discussion about Triclosan began in India. Colgate (India) issued an official statement stating that the company complies with all laws and regulations prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) India. 

Pepsodent and Colgate used Triclosan as their main marketing tool in the late 1990s, but it has since been replaced by Zinc and arginine. Hindustan Unilever, India’s leading soap and handwash manufacturer, has already discontinued the use of Triclosan in both soaps and handwashes. India is closely monitoring all Triclosan activities to ensure that all companies use Triclosan in the prescribed quantities as prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

Alternatives of Triclosan

Major health problems can occur whether we ingest triclosan knowingly or unknowingly. It is preferable to use natural ingredients to kill bacteria rather than anti-bacterial products. The practices which can be used as an alternative to triclosan are:

  • Using triclosan-free handwashes and soaps. 
  • Tea trees, grapefruit, and pine oils are all naturally antimicrobial.
  • Turmeric powder is also well known for its antibacterial properties. As a result, using a small amount of turmeric powder in foods is advised. 
  • Lemon is also beneficial to human health, as it aids in the elimination of a bacterium that causes pneumonia and blood infections.
  • Honey is also one of the best anti-bacterial agents available. 
  • Ginger is also a great ingredient to use in our food because it adds flavour while also killing bacteria.
  • Pineapple is one of the best fruits to consume raw or in juice form to help kill bacteria in our mouth and throat.
  • Many doctors recommend eating carrots twice a day as it helps to flush bacteria from our intestines.
  • Washing our hands before and after eating, drying our hands with a clean towel.
  • Rinsing our clothes regularly.
  • Washing children’s toys in hot water.

These are some of the best alternatives to Triclosan that we can use in our daily lives.


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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

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