The safety of triclosan

What is triclosan?

Triclosan is an ingredient used in a number of cosmetics and personal care products to stop the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mildew, and to prevent odours. It is also used as a preservative in textiles, leather, paper, plastic, and rubber materials.

Current levels of triclosan to which Canadians are exposed are not known to be harmful to our health.

Products that contain triclosan

For most Canadians, cosmetics and personal care products are the main sources of exposure to triclosan.

While triclosan is typically used as a preservative and antibacterial agent in most of these items, it can also provide health benefits like helping your toothpaste reduce and prevent plaque and gingivitis.

Some of the products that may contain triclosan include:

  • soap
  • deodorant
  • eye and face make-up
  • lotion
  • body wash/shower gel
  • shampoo
  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • non-prescription medication
  • health products (including natural health products)

Did you know?

About 1,600 cosmetics and personal care products and 150 health products that contain triclosan are sold in Canada.

Other uses

Triclosan is also used as a preservative in pesticides to prevent odours and the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mildew in:

  • textiles (like clothing and bedding)
  • paper
  • plastic
  • rubber

Pesticides containing triclosan are not used on food crops.

Restrictions on triclosan

The maximum amount of triclosan allowed in cosmetics/personal care products sold in Canada is:

  • 0.03% in mouthwashes
  • 0.3% in other products
  • 1.0% in personal care products that are regulated as a drug

Did you know?

As of January 1, 2015, triclosan will no longer be registered for use as a pesticide in Canada. This means that triclosan-treated items cannot be imported into Canada until the pesticide has been registered with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

Health risks

Triclosan does not pose a health risk to most Canadians, including children, pregnant women, and seniors. The levels of triclosan to which we are exposed are considered too low to be harmful.

Antimicrobial resistance

There is no evidence to support claims that the use of products containing triclosan leads to antimicrobial resistance.

Did you know?

Antimicrobial resistance can develop when antibiotics are used inappropriately. As a result, bacteria, viruses, and parasites develop the ability to "resist" standard treatment with medications.

Environmental risks

Because products like toothpastes and soaps end up being washed down the drain, the amount of triclosan that is released into the environment can affect plants and animals in lakes, streams, and rivers.

Safety tips

  • Read the label. Cosmetics and personal care products that contain triclosan must say so on the label. If you want to avoid triclosan, check the list of ingredients.
  • Always read and follow product instructions. For example, directions for mouthwashes that contain triclosan say to avoid swallowing the product.
  • If you handle products containing triclosan in the workplace, talk to your health and safety representative about safe handling practices.
  • Practice proper hand washing techniques using soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are useful when soap and water are not available.
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