Pesticide in Soap, Toothpaste and Breast Milk - Is It Kid-Safe?: Triclosan Toxicity

Taken together, many studies now demonstrate that triclosan is certainly not the safe and healthy bacteria-fighting hand soap ingredient we once might have assumed.


CDC research on a broad cross-section of the population detected triclosan in the urine of 75% of 2,517 Americans (Calafat 2007). Higher levels of triclosan were typically found in higher income participants. An earlier study spearheaded by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found triclosan in the urine of 61% of 90 girls age 6 to 8 (Wolff 2007). Triclosan tends to bioaccumulate (Samsøe-Petersen 2003), or become more concentrated in the fatty tissues of humans and other animals. As a result, this chemical has been detected in human breast milk, and in blood samples as well (Adolfsson-Erici 2002; TNO 2005; Allmyr 2006a,b; Dayan 2007). Higher levels of triclosan in blood and breast milk are linked to use of body care products containing triclosan (Allmyr 2006b). Lab studies link triclosan to cancer, developmental defects, and liver and inhalation toxicity. A secret study by Colgate scientists revealed exposure to low levels of triclosan caused liver tumors in mice (See 1996). Colgate refuses to release this study to EPA for evaluation, though it provided it to FDA in order to ensure it could add triclosan to toothpaste and other oral care products. Based on the study summary alone, and using a controversial assumption about the way this type of liver tumor forms in mice, EPA classified triclosan as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans” (EPA 2008). This decision flows in part from EPA’s lack of regulatory authority to demand release of Colgate’s findings, a clear indication of the need for reform of the U.S. system of chemical health protections. EPA does have access to several other lab animal studies linking triclosan to a variety of health effects. A study linking low level maternal triclosan exposure in mice to health effects in offspring, including irregular skull development and decreased fetal weight, provides evidence that triclosan may be a developmental toxicant (MRID 43817501: citation missing from EPA 2008b). Another mouse study, involving exposures to low levels of triclosan for 28 days, documented its toxic effects on the liver (Trutter 1993). While EPA summarizes the results of these studies in its documents, the Agency seems to ignore them when assessing the risks associated with this pesticide. In contrast, EPA acknowledges the substantial inhalation risk associated with triclosan, revealed by a 21-day rat study that found signs of toxicity at all levels of exposure (MRID 0087996: citation missing from EPA 2008b).

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