Chemical Profile: Triclosan

This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month we’re highlighting common chemicals linked to breast cancer across a range of everyday products. According to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, a woman’s risk of breast cancer has increased by more than 40 percent over the last two decades, to a lifetime risk of 1 in 8

Mounting studies show links to chemicals in everyday products and breast cancer. The good news is studies also show that actively avoiding these toxic chemicals reduces levels of those chemicals in our bodies.

Which means that every step you take, no matter how small, weights the scales toward better health! Let’s take a look at triclosan.

What Is It?

Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical, meaning it’s designed to kill germs. Triclosan, a registered pesticide, is found in products labeled as “anti-microbial” or “anti-bacterial” like liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste, laundry detergent, dish soap, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, deodorant, and more. The synthetic chemical was initially created for use in hospital settings, but has moved into formulations of everyday household products.

The Health Concerns

Because there are so many health concerns associated with triclosan, the FDA banned its use in hand soaps beginning in 2017. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor, having the capability to affect the normal functioning of hormones. The chemical’s endocrine disrupting effects are supported by numerous studies[i]. Exposure to triclosan may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Triclosan’s widespread use has resulted in the chemical presence in the umbilical cords of newborns and breast milk. The use of personal care products containing triclosan has been linked to increased levels of triclosan in plasma and milk.

Not only is triclosan toxic to humans, but it is also classified toxic to aquatic life by the European Union and Canada. This is particularly concerning as triclosan has been found in numerous US waterways. The chemical is persistent, meaning it hangs around in the environment and does not readily break down, and could potentially bioaccumulate, or build up in organisms’ bodies.

How to Avoid It

The good news is that the FDA banned triclosan for use in hand soaps starting in 2017. However, triclosan is still permitted for use in other personal care products like toothpaste, body wash, and hand sanitizer.

Because we know that using personal care products containing triclosan increases levels of the chemical in the body, taking steps to use products free of triclosan can reduce your exposure. Here are some tips to avoid it:

  • Read labels. Look for triclosan on the ingredients list and skip products containing the chemical. However, also make sure to skip other antibacterial ingredients like triclocarban, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol.
  • Choose MADE SAFE certified products. MADE SAFE does not permit the use of triclosan (or any of the other antibacterial ingredients listed above) in any of its certified products!
  • If you are looking for a product with antimicrobial properties, look for cleaners containing essential oils like tea tree, lavender, oregano, peppermint, eucalyptus, and clove.
  • Use good old-fashioned soap and water. The FDA has stated that soap works equally as well for reducing the spread of germs as triclosan. Just make sure you’re washing your hands properly—from fingertips to elbows—and for at least twenty seconds.
  • Look out for products labeled as “antimicrobial,” “antibacterial,” “odor-fighting,” or “germ-resistant.” They could contain triclosan, and include not just personal care products and cleaning products, but household items like shower curtains, cutting boards, upholstery, stuffed animals, children’s toys, and more.
  • Find triclosan-free MADE SAFE products here!

Brands with MADE SAFE Products that are Triclosan-Free


Kosmatology started with a pharmacist who sought safer products for her baby with eczema. Dr. Janis Covey’s friends started asking for her homemade products and soon the company was born.

Dr. Covey’s knowledge of human health has manifested into an entire line of MADE SAFE certified products, including Foaming Hand Soaps in five different natural scents. Instead of triclosan, Kosmatology’s soaps use nature’s own antibacterials—essential oils like grapefruit, lemon, and eucalyptus.


This company’s commitment to safe cleaning products all started with laundry detergent. After learning that conventional detergents contained harmful ingredients, founder Kate Jakubas sought out to make a laundry powder free of toxic ingredients. The result is MADE SAFE certified laundry powder, which comes either unscented or in three scents. The triclosan-free laundry powders use simple ingredients for deep cleaning and essential oils for natural fragrance.

Meliora also has MADE SAFE certified cleaning products. Meliora’s All Purpose Soap is the absolute simplest way to clean—you can use it on your hands, counters, bathrooms, and even as a stain remover. Meliora also makes All Purpose Soap Flakes. Easy to use—just add a tablespoon to a spray bottle, fill with water, and start cleaning. Both products don’t contain triclosan. Instead they’re made of only four ingredients!

[i] Ahn, K. C., Zhao, B., Chen, J., Cherednichenko, G., Sanmarti, E., Denison, M. S., . . . Hammock, B. D. (2008). In vitro biologic activities of the antimicrobials triclocarban, its analogs, and triclosan in bioassay screens: Receptor-based bioassay screens. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(9), 1203-1210. doi:10.1289/ehp.11200

Chen, J., Ahn, K. C., Gee, N. A., Ahmed, M. I., Duleba, A. J., Zhao, L., . . . Lasley, B. L. (2008). Triclocarban enhances testosterone action: A new type of endocrine disruptor? Endocrinology, 149(3), 1173-1179. doi:10.1210/en.2007-1057

Christen, V., Crettaz, P., Oberli-Schrämmli, A., & Fent, K. (2010). Some flame retardants and the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban enhance the androgenic activity in vitro. Chemosphere, 81(10), 1245-1252. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.09.031

Huang, H., Du, G., Zhang, W., Hu, J., Wu, D., Song, L., . . . Wang, X. (2014). The in vitro estrogenic activities of triclosan and triclocarban. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 34(9), 1060-1067. doi:10.1002/jat.3012

James, M. O., Li, W., Summerlot, D. P., Rowland-Faux, L., & Wood, C. E. (2010). Triclosan is a potent inhibitor of estradiol and estrone sulfonation in sheep placenta. Environment International, 36(8), 942-949. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2009.02.004

Kumar, V., Chakraborty, A., Kural, M. R., & Roy, P. (2009). Alteration of testicular steroidogenesis and histopathology of reproductive system in male rats treated with triclosan. Reproductive Toxicology, 27(2), 177-185. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2008.12.002

Paul, K. B., Hedge, J. M., DeVito, M. J., & Crofton, K. M. (2010). Short-term exposure to triclosan decreases thyroxine in vivo via upregulation of hepatic catabolism in young long-evans rats. Toxicological Sciences, 113(2), 367-379. doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfp271

Zorrilla, L. M., Gibson, E. K., Jeffay, S. C., Crofton, K. M., Setzer, W. R., Cooper, R. L., & Stoker, T. E. (2009). The effects of triclosan on puberty and thyroid hormones in male wistar rats. Toxicological Sciences, 107(1), 56-64. doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfn225


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