Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent that is added a range of hygiene products including soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, and cosmetics such as lotions and cream, as well as Dishwasher soaps.
A report in the Evening Standard on 15th April 2005 reads:
Toothpaste cancer alert
By Mark Prigg Science Correspondent And Rebecca Lawrence
Evening Standard Last updated at 00:00am on 15.04.05
Dozens of toothpastes sold at supermarkets are at the centre of a cancer alert today.
Anti-bacterial cleaning products, including dishwashing liquid and handwash, are also affected.
Researchers have discovered that triclosan, a chemical in the products, can react with water to produce chloroform gas. If inhaled in large enough quantities, chloroform can cause depression, liver problems and, in some cases, cancer.
An Evening Standard investigation found dozens of products on supermarket shelves containing the chemical, from brand names including Colgate, Aquafresh, Dentyl and Sensodyne.
Marks& Spencer confirmed today it was removing products containing triclosan from all its stores and has been working with Greenpeace to develop alternative products.
Asda said it was investigating the problem and would be urgently talking to its suppliers.
Giles Watson, a toxicology expert at wildlife charity WWF, warned that the long-term effects of exposure to chloroform were still unknown and advised consumers to check the bottles before buying products.
The following are some of the side-effects with which this antibacterial agent has been linked:
- immune system weakening
- Birth defects
- Excessive weight-loss
Triclosan may be a cause of cancer on its own or when combined with other substances. With water, it produces chloroform the inhalation of which leads to liver complications, cancer, and mood alterations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified chloroform as a probable human carcinogen, or substance causing cancer.
It can also be converted to dioxin, a toxin, by sunlight. Triclosan also causes bacterial resistance, thus bringing to question its long term use as an antimicrobial.
Particular attention by researchers has been given to triclosan in dishwasher soaps since the chemical can react with chlorine in water to produce chloroform.
Many studies have been done concerning triclosan establishing its harmful effects to the human body. There are pollutant lawsuits currently in operation in the US with respect to triclosan.