Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical present in some shampoos, toothpastes, soaps, cutting boards, and garbage bags. It is used in products where manufacturers believe that bacteria needs to be killed or to reduce odor. In such products as soaps, after use the contaminated wastewater travels to treatment plants but not all of the triclosan is removed after treatment. Because not all of the triclosan can be removed, the remaining chemical is released into the local lakes and streams.
A recent article from americanrivers.org featured a study from the University of Minnesota that found an increasing amount of triclosan present in Lakes across Minnesota and addresses the chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are improperly disposed of down the drain.
Water contaminated with triclosan is harmful to plants, animals, and humans. When it is exposed to sunlight, toxic carcinogenic byproducts are released. Multiple studies of the effects of triclosan have shown that among other impacts, it may be an endocrine disrupting chemical and could alter hormone levels in humans causing decreased thyroid function and an increase of breast cancer cells. In 2008, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that 75 percent of the U.S. population has triclosan present in their urine.
Experts agree that using regular soap and warm water is better than using antibacterial products. Antibacterial products promote the evolution of bacteria by making them more resistant to antibiotics and more difficult for our bodies to kill off. It is important to make informed choices to protect water and to understand how the products we use impact both the environment and our health.