It is a key ingredient in many soaps, toothpastes, deodorants and other popular anti-bacterial products used by people every day. But could it be making people sick?
Triclosan is a antimicrobial or germ-killing agent first used in hospital settings as a surgical scrub. Now, triclosan is found in hundreds of products because of its ability to stop the growth of bacteria, fungi and mildew. However, triclosan was first registered by the EPA as a pesticide in 1969 and the government admits it is toxic.
Mary Lou Simanovich did not know it at the time, but she had been using soaps containing triclosan for years. She said she learned the things she was doing to stay healthy, ended up making her sick.
"Actually, I feel as I've just been hit in the stomach by this thing, said Simanovich. Why am I so tired? That may have been the indication.
Fatigued and just not feeling right, Simanovich went to her doctor.
I noted that she's had an underactive thyroid and was asking her about antibacterial soap, said Dr. Gerard Guillory, Simanovichs physician.
Guillory was already treating her for hypothyroidism, a condition he says improved after she stopped using antibacterial products that contained triclosan.
My suspicion is that if its damaging the thyroid, its probably damaging other organs in the body, said Guillory.
He believes several of his patients are having symptoms caused by their daily exposure to triclosan in products they use or come into contact with on a daily basis.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis found triclosan does accumulate in the body and eventually disrupts hormone activity. The 2008 study said that could lead to obesity, infertility and cancer.
What's considered safe 10 years ago may be considered differently today, said University of Colorado School of Pharmacy professor, Dr. Peter Rice.
Rice said further investigation is needed to know if there is a safe level of triclosan, but he points out it does have a purpose.
There's a place for compounds that break down bacteria and there's a population of people who's going to benefit from that, said Rice.
That level of sanitizing can have some unintended consequences, said Sonya Lunder, an environmental scientist for The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that focuses on environmental research and advocacy for consumers.
She is studying the growing use of antibacterial chemicals and said triclosan has a toxic and lasting effect.
I would say that this chemical shouldn't be used in consumer products. We want to save it for medical uses and carefully consider the fact that people are getting exposure to this chemical through dozens of sources in their everyday life," Lunder said.
7NEWS has confirmed that not only are the FDA and EPA reviewing their findings on the safety of triclosan, the agencies have even extended the public comment period to get as much data as possible.
Simanovich said she used antibacterial products several times a day for years.
When I come back from work, the light rail, I wash my hands, said Simanovich.
Since she started checking labels for triclosan and avoiding it, her thyroid numbers have improved.
She hopes soon she won't need medication anymore.
"I feel better now. That's all I can say and I think there's an association," said Simanovich.
Some European countries have already banned some uses of triclosan and some American companies are removing the chemical from consumer products.
This spring the FDA will release its safety review of triclosan.
In the meantime, Guillory said use regular soap and alcohol wipes if you are concerned about the risks.
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