The Adverse Effects of Triclosan on the Environment

The Environmental Impact of Triclosan

It’s no secret that environmental pollution and contaminants can come from many different sources. But many people may not realize that ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products can harm the environment and the plants and animals living in it. Many ingredients in such products are questionable at best due to the adverse effects that they have on humans.

Triclosan, for example, has been linked to contact dermatitis and skin irritation in humans and has been implicated in the development of microbial resistance to antibiotic agents (source). In addition to these concerns, the use of triclosan in a range of consumer products is also having a negative impact on the environment.


Triclosan was first registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide (source), and it continues to be classified as such today (source). While triclosan is regulated in many countries, this is not the case here in the U.S. (source).

In addition to being a pesticide, triclosan is also an antimicrobial agent that targets mainly bacteria, though it has some antifungal and antiviral properties as well. Introduced in the U.S. in the 1970s, triclosan was originally created for use in surgical scrubs in hospitals. Since that time, the use of triclosan in consumer products has exploded. It is now found not only in hand soaps, but also in other personal care products such as acne creams, cosmetics, deodorant, and toothpaste. It is also sometimes embedded into yoga mats, kitchen utensils, furniture, bedding, trash bags, and toys. And these are just a few examples! Triclosan is added to products with the goal of reducing or eliminating bacterial populations from the skin and various surfaces, but its use in personal care products means that some of it eventually ends up in our waterways.

There is evidence that some triclosan is absorbed into the body when applied on the skin in personal care products (it has been detected in human breast milk and urine). But triclosan found in soaps and toothpaste, for example, is easily washed down the drain and eventually makes its way to water treatment plants. The amount of triclosan that is removed from water at these facilities varies from plant to plant. While it is estimated that up to 95% of triclosan can be removed from wastewater (source), that still leaves 5% (or more) of it to enter our waterways. Once released into the environment, several key concerns come into play.



Triclosan has been found in both surface and wastewater. Once in these waters, triclosan may- when exposed to sunlight- break down, creating two types of dioxins, 2,8-DCDD and 2,4-DCP. Dioxins can be highly carcinogenic (source). There is also some evidence that triclosan may combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform, a probable human carcinogen (source). However, studies on this issue are conflicting, and further research is needed (source).


In addition for the potential to form toxic breakdown products, triclosan has also been found to adversely affect various plant and animal species. Triclosan is highly toxic to algae; researchers in Japan have observed that at least one species of green algae is especially susceptible to the effects of triclosan. As they noted in the findings of a study, algae “are important organisms being the first-step producers in the ecosystem; therefore, the possible destruction of the balance of the ecosystem is expected if triclosan is discharged into the environment at high levels” (source). Because algae is so critical to the health of the ecosystems in which it grows, a threat to it represents a threat to many other organisms living in that same system.

Triclosan impacts animals as well. It has been found to disrupt the expression of certain genes in the North American bullfrog (source). And, as a lipophilic substance, triclosan can be absorbed into and stored in the fatty tissues and internal organs of fish, where it can interfere with various species’ hormonal and reproductive systems (sourcesource). The bioaccumulation of triclosan in some fish may also leave open the possibility for people to consume triclosan when eating them.


If triclosan was extremely effective at doing what it is intended to do, i.e. eliminating bacteria and lowering the rate of infections and illness, then maybe it would be worth using it in spite of the negative impact it often has. However, there is little evidence that people who regularly use antibacterial soaps are less likely to get sick than those who don’t use them. The FDA has stated that washing with soaps containing triclosan is no more effective than washing with regular soap and water: “the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water” (source). Furthermore, the American Medical Association does not endorse the need for or the efficacy of triclosan outside of health care settings or for persons with weakened immune systems. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not antibacterial soaps, but vigorous hand washing with plain soap for at least 10 seconds in order to remove germs (source). A lack of efficacy combined with the detrimental effects that triclosan can have on humans, aquatic plants, and some animals indicate that triclosan should be used judiciously and with caution. It may be appropriate for use in hospitals, for example, but the benefits of triclosan for household soaps have not been proven. Therefore, you can make a difference today for your local waterways and wildlife by ditching antibacterial soaps and opting for plain soap and water.


Dann, AB, Hontela, A. “Triclosan: Environmental Exposure, Toxicity, and Mechanisms of Action.” PubMed. May 2011. Web. 11 April 2016.

Hamblin, James. “The Ingredient to Avoid in Soap.” The Atlantic. 17 November 2014. Web. 11 April 2016.

Mercola, Joseph. “Triclosan: The Soap Ingredient You Should Never Use — But 75% of Households Do.” 29 August 2012. Web. 11 April 2016.

“Pesticide Registration Status.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 11 April 2016.

Tatarazako, N, Ishibashi,H, Teshima, K, Kishi, K, Arizono, K. “Effects of Triclosan on Various Aquatic Organisms.” 2004 PubMed. Web. 11 April 2016.

“Triclosan.” Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. January 2011. Web. 11 April 2016.

“Triclosan and Drinking Water.” Minnesota Department of Health, Environmental Health Division. August 2014. Web. 11 April 2016.

“Triclosan: Environmental Fate and Effects.” Beyond Pesticides. Web. 11 April 2016.

“Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know.” Food and Drug Administration. Web. 11 April 2016.

You might also like…

The Effects of Microbeads on Water and Wildlife

The Effects of Microbeads on Our Water and Wildlife


7 Ways to Boost Your Immunity Naturally


Well, we are one week into September. Technically, there are still two weeks left of summer, but for the past couple of weeks, there has been a definite change in the air around here. The days are still warm. But there’s a chill at night that lingers until mid-morning. With the change of the seasons often comes colds, coughs, stomach viruses, and other unwanted bugs. We are also starting the fourth week of school, and various illnesses are already being passed around amongst the kiddos.

Fortunately, there are a number of things that we can do to help prevent illness and support our immune systems naturally. I like to think of our kitchen as our family’s primary medicine cabinet. A healthy diet doesn’t prevent every illness, but it goes a long way toward maintaining good health. Here are seven simple ways that you can support your immune system naturally.

Wash Your Hands

This bit of advice seems quite obvious, but the importance of hand washing to prevent illness cannot be understated. I discuss this topic in more detail in my post Why We Have a Household Ban on Triclosan. But the main thing to keep in mind is that giving your hands a good scrub with plain soap and water helps to loosen bacteria and viruses and wash them off your skin. Teach your kids to scrub long and hard, too. If you explain to them why hand washing is so important, they may be more motivated to do a good job. It’s also important to encourage them to wash their hands throughout the day. Washing with soap and water is the best way to remove germs from your hands, but for those times that they are not available, hand sanitizer can fill the gap.

Eat a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is obviously crucial for overall health, and many of the nutrients that are obtained from eating a variety of healthy foods help support immune function. A balanced diet emphasizes vegetables and fruits (organic whenever possible) and lean protein (including poultry and cold-water fish). Modest amounts of whole grains, beans, and legumes are important, as are small to moderate amounts of dairy. Healthy fats, including those found in coconut oil, butter (yes, butter!), avocados, and olive oil should also be part of the diet. It is also best to keep sugars and refined carbohydrates to a minimum (more about this in following sections).

Increase Your Vitamin C Intake

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and is critical for immune function because white blood cells require this vitamin to fight off infections. Vitamin C has a similar structure to glucose (sugar) and uses the same receptor sites on cells as glucose does. Too many sugars and/or refined carbohydrates in the diet increases glucose in the bloodstream and can prevent vitamin C from entering the cells, where it is needed.

There are many food sources of vitamin C, including citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, avocados, broccoli, and bell peppers. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat, so these foods are best consumed raw if you are eating them for the vitamin C.

Feed the (Good) Bugs in Your Belly

There are billions of “good” bacteria (called probiotics) living in our intestines. These microscopic bugs provide a variety of health benefits for us. They produce food for the intestinal cells and even make some vitamins (how cool is that?!). They also support immune function by crowding out unwanted microbes (the ones that can make us sick) and making the intestines less hospitable for them. About 70 to 80 percent of the immune system’s cells reside in the intestines, and probiotics actually communicate with and support them.

There are several types of foods that can be eaten in order to increase and support the probiotics in our bodies. To begin with, consuming fermented foods like yogurt (plain is best because it has less sugar than flavored varieties), kefir, and kombucha (a probiotic drink) helps to colonize the intestines with good bacteria. There are also certain foods, called pre-biotics, that probiotics love to feed on. These include barley, berries, bananas, and other fruits (unpeeled), most vegetables (unpeeled), beans, peas, lentils, garlic, onions, honey, tomatoes, and oats and oat bran. Some foods also contain plant compounds, known as phenols, that actually act as selective antibiotics, inhibiting the growth of unwanted microbes. Most herbs and spices, berries, tea, red wine, dark chocolate, and coffee have phenols in them. Again, it is important to minimize refined sugars and carbohydrates because “bad” bugs like to feed on them.

Since many of the foods that support probiotics- either directly or indirectly- are part of a healthy diet, if you’re eating a variety of healthy foods, you’re probably already taking good care of the friendly bugs in your gut.

Cook with Garlic

Garlic is a staple in our house. We add it to everything we cook, it seems. Making tomato soup? Add some garlic! Veggie quiche? Throw in some garlic! Chicken fajitas?… You get the point. Part of the reason we use garlic so much, aside from the fact that it tastes good, is that it is so beneficial to our health. Garlic contains a precursor to a compound that, when activated in the body, has a mild antibiotic effect. It may also fight viral infections, including a form of the common cold. And it is effective against fungal infections as well.

Eat Coconut Oil

Many of the fatty acids in coconut oil are converted in the body into antimicrobial compounds that can fight off unwanted bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Coconut oil is stable at high heats and makes a great addition to Asian dishes. I also sometimes put a tablespoon or so in my smoothies.

Enjoy Some (Sunscreen Free) Time in the Sun

Vitamin D is crucial for immune function; if you have adequate levels, you are better able to fight off infections. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, it converts a cholesterol compound into vitamin D. Wearing sunscreen, however, inhibits the production of vitamin D. This is why it is important to spend 10 to 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen several times a week. It is important to be aware, though, that in roughly the upper third of the U.S. the sun’s rays are not adequate during the winter months to stimulate vitamin D production. It has been theorized that the incidence of colds and flu increases in the winter in part because of this effect (i.e. because people are unable to make vitamin D during this part of the year). People with darker skin also have difficulty producing enough vitamin D because their skin pigments block the sun’s rays. There are some dietary sources of vitamin D, including fish liver oil, fatty saltwater fish, canned tuna, shiitake mushrooms, diary products, egg yolks, liver, butter, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal.

There are a variety of ways to prevent illness and support the immune system naturally. A balanced and varied diet, proper hand washing, and a little time in the sun go a long way toward keeping everyone in the family healthy.

What do you do to stay healthy?


Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

Edelstein, Julia. “All About Vitamin D: Benefits, Sources, and More.” Real Simple, Web. 23 September 2013.

Huffnagle, Gary B. The Probiotics Revolution. New York: Bantam Books, 2008. Print.

Pratt, Heather. “Good Health Starts in the Gut.” Natural Grocers, 22 September 2011. Web. 24 September 2013.

Wilson, Lindsay. “You’ve Got a Cold… Now What?” Natural Grocers, 24 January 2012. Web. 24 September 2013.

You might also like…

Yogurt with strawberries

Yogurt and Fruit

The Many Uses of Castile Soap

The Many Uses of Castile Soap

Sun shining through an arch

The Catch 22 of the Sunshine Vitamin







The Benefits of Using Natural Body Care Products

Verefina Products

I’ve been talking about personal care products a lot recently. In my posts on 5 Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products, More About Parabens, and Why We Have a Household Ban on Triclosan, I talk about things to try to steer clear of. But today I want to focus on the positive, and discuss some of the many benefits of using skin care products made with natural ingredients.

Benefits of Natural Personal Care Products

Natural products are made mainly with plant ingredients, and plants produce their own essential oils, antioxidants, and oils to nourish and protect themselves from various microbes. Fortunately for us, we can benefit from these plant compounds too.

Essential Oils

Many plants produce compounds that give off the distinct “essence” of the plant. These essential oils are a wonderful alternative to the artificial fragrances that are found in many skin care products, like lotion, shampoo and conditioner, and soap. Essential oils give products a clean, fresh scent that rarely causes negative side effects such as headaches and allergic reactions. (If you’ve never used essential oils, though, it’s a good idea to test products containing them on a small patch of skin. Wait at least 24 hours before using it on the rest of your body.) Some essential oils have mild SPF properties, so moisturizers that contain them can provide light protection from the sun. Many essential oils such as lavender and tea tree have antimicrobial properties, so they are often added to natural first aid products.


Plants also produce antioxidants, which work by neutralizing unstable molecules that would otherwise damage cells and tissues. They are particularly helpful in protecting the skin from damage caused by exposure to UV radiation (see In and Out Sunscreen for more on this). Antioxidants are found in olive, grape seed, and sea buckthorn oils, for example, as well as in some essential oils. Since these oils are used in many natural skin care products, the antioxidants that are in them help protect the skin.

Essential Fatty Acids

The human body uses the essential fatty acids (EFAs) in various oils as building blocks for cell walls (the outer barriers of cells). When applied topically, these fatty acids moisturize skin without clogging pores. Jojoba oil is an especially good match for human skin because it is the plant oil that most closely resembles the sebum (oil) produced by the skin.

One important thing to remember, though, is that many natural products have dangerous additives as well as natural ingredients. So it is important to read labels carefully on these products, too.

Do you use natural skin care products? Have you noticed any other benefits?

You might also like…


An Introduction to Antioxidants


In and Out Sunscreen 


DIY Aromatherapy Bath Oil







The Many Uses of Castile Soap



Yesterday I took a look at antibacterial soaps, specifically those containing triclosan. There are a lot of downsides to these kinds of soaps, but, fortunately, there are alternatives. One of them is Castile soap. My family and I have been using Castile soap for a number of years now, and it has a wide range of uses. But before I talk about how to use it, I should first explain what it is.

How is Castile Soap Made?

The process of making Castile soap is a traditional one that originated in the Castile region of Spain, hence the name. The soap was made with olive oil. Strictly speaking, the only oil used to make Castile soap is olive oil. However, the term often refers today to any soap made with plant oils, as opposed to animal fat. The process of making the soap involves reacting olive (or another) oil with a lye solution. Glycerin is created as a by-product of this reaction and is frequently left in the soap because it has moisturizing properties. Oils that have been reacted in this way are referred to as “saponified” and you will sometimes see that term on labels.

Uses for Castile Soap

We use Castile soap both for personal care and around the house.

Personal Care Uses

* Hand soap in the bathrooms and at the kitchen sink

* Body wash (especially good for the delicate skin of little ones)

* Shampoo (I use it on the kids; I’ve tried it on my hair but find that it leaves it too oily)

Household Uses

* Dishwashing soap (see my post on DIY Natural Cleaners)

* Produce wash- put a small amount of soap and water on foods like peppers, tomatoes, apples, etc, and gently scrub; for delicate foods like berries and mushrooms, add 1 or 2 teaspoons to a tub of water, and swish your produce around

* All-purpose surface cleaner (DIY Natural Cleaners)

* Mopping soltion (DIY Natural Cleaners)

* Reusable Diaper Wipes (more on how to make these soon)

* Laundry (also great for hand washing delicate clothing)

Castile soap’s wide range of uses makes it perfect for camping, too. Bring a little Castile soap on your camping trip, and you can keep everything from yourself to your dishes clean. When we’re at home, I keep Castile soap in the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room and use it every single day.

Do you use Castile soap? What do you use it for?

Why We Have a Household Ban on Triclosan

We’re talking this week about some of the ingredients in personal care products. Today I want to take a look at antibacterial soaps. In recent years, there have been increasing concerns about antibacterial soaps. In theory, they seem like a good idea. Who wants bacteria all over their hands, right? But it’s becoming more and more clear that there are various problems with them.

Concerns About Antibacterial Soaps

Anti-bacterial soaps are, well, anti-bacterial. That means that they don’t even touch viruses or other microbes. And many common illnesses, such as colds, influenza, and some stomach bugs (norovirus, for example), are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Triclosan (which, by the way, is also used as a pesticide) is the antibacterial agent of choice in many of these soaps. Triclosan is found not only in soap, but also in other personal care products such as toothpaste and in yoga mats and toys as well. There are concerns that triclosan may not kill all bacteria, so the germs that are left behind are able to mutate and become resistant to antibacterial soaps.

Another worry is that triclosan is accumulating in the environment and negatively impacting wildlife. Studies done at the University of Minnesota have found that triclosan can accumulate in lakes and rivers (source). The results of these studies helped Minnesota to become the first state to ban triclosan in commercial soaps just this past May.

Triclosan may also disrupt hormone activity. Several studies have shown that it disrupts the thyroid hormone in frogs and rats and that it affects the sex hormones of other lab animals (source). It’s important to remember, though, that the results of animal studies don’t always translate to humans. Still, these animal studies are concerning.

Proper Hand Washing

So should we all just stop washing our hands? Of course not. And it turns out that we don’t need antibacterial soap to get our hands clean. The goal of hand washing should not really be to kill bacteria (or other microbes); rather, we just need to loosen it and rinse it away. So it’s simply a matter of washing long enough and creating enough friction to do so. Plain soap (I use this one) and water are all that is needed.

There is little evidence that people who regularly use antibacterial soaps are any less likely to get sick than those who don’t use them. And the FDA has acknowledged that washing with soaps containing triclosan is no more effective than washing with regular soap and water:

At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water (source).

We live in a germophobic society, but some exposure to these little bugs is important for maintaining a robust immune system.  Hand washing is an important tool for staying healthy, and plain soap and water and some good scrubbing are all you need to keep the germs away.

What kind of soap do you use?

Verefina Foaming Soap

We opt for natural soaps that do not contain antibacterial agents.


Eng, Monica. “Do Soaps with Triclosan do More Harm Than Good?” The Chicago Tribune. 10 February 2013. Web. 11 September 2013.–20130210_1_triclosan-plain-soap-sarah-janssen

Martin, Andrew. “Antibacterial Chemical Raises Safety Issues.” The New York Times. 19 August 2011. Web. 12 August 2014.

“Minnesota Bans Antibacterial Soap Ingredient Triclosan.” Wisconsin Public Radio. 22 May 2014. Web. 11 August 2014.

“The Slippery Slope of Soap.” Wellness Mama. Web. 10 September 2013.

“Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know.” The Food and Drug Administration. 25 November 2013. Web. 12 August 2014.

You might also like…

Personal Care Products

5 Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products


More About Parabens







5 Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products

Personal Care Products

I started paying much closer attention to the ingredients in personal care products about 6 years ago. I had been interested in what goes into the food I was eating long before that, so this was the next logical step. The skin absorbs up to 60% of what is put on it, so what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them. And when you stop and think about it, most of us, especially us ladies, put a lot of stuff on our skin: lotion, soap, make up, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, shaving cream, sunscreen, and so on. We put a lot of these same types of products on our children, whose delicate skin may absorb even more of what is put on it. Many people assume that the ingredients that go into personal care products are all safe, but unfortunately, there is minimal regulation of the personal care industry. According t0 the Food and Drug Administration website:

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. In general, cosmetic manufacturers may use any ingredient [emphasis mine] they choose, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation (source).

This means that it is up to consumers to know what to look for and avoid in body care products. There are many ingredients that you likely don’t want on (or in) your body, but here are five important ones to avoid.

Artificial Fragrances

The synthetic chemicals that are used to scent many products are considered “trade secrets,” which means that manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients that compose them. Rather, they may simply use the word “fragrance” on the label. If you see “fragrance” in an ingredient list, be aware that this may well be code for dozens of chemicals (unless the label clearly states what is in the fragrance). Many artificial fragrances give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that carry health risks similar to those given off by household cleaners and paint stripers. They also cause allergic reactions in some people.


Sulfates are detergents that make products foam. Most personal care products that get sudsy contain sulfates. These include soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. We tend to associate lots of suds with cleanliness, but the sulfates behind these bubbles have some unwanted side effects. Sulfates strip the natural oils produced by the skin. These oils are needed to help moisturize the skin, so it really isn’t a good idea to remove them. Continually removing these oils can also stimulate the skin to overcompensate and produce even more oil. This can lead to a cycle of stripping oils with harsh soaps, which then leads to the overproduction of the skin’s oils.

Sulfates can also irritate and inflame the skin and even cause layers to separate. Sulfates make the skin more permeable, allowing up to 40% more toxins to enter the body through the skin. The most common sulfates used in personal care products are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).


Triclosan is an antibacterial agent added to many hand soaps and some toothpastes. The problem with triclosan is that it may not kill all bacteria, so the bacteria that survives may be more resistant to it. Hand washing is not really intended to kill bacteria and other germs on the hands, anyway. You just need to wash long enough and scrub hard enough to loosen microbes and rinse them away.


Parabens are preservatives used in products such as shampoo, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, and some foods and pharmaceuticals. They are used to kill bacteria, but may also be toxic to our cells. Another concern with parabens is that they have a mild estrogenic effect, and estrogen is known to be associated with the development of some types of breast cancer. Parabens have also been discovered intact in breast cancer cells; however, this doesn’t prove that parabens cause breast cancer. There have not been any studies that have found a direct cause-effect relationship between parabens and breast cancer at this point. But it is concerning that they do not appear to be easily broken down by the body. Parabens are usually listed on ingredient labels as methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, or propylparaben.


Petrochemicals are derived from fossil fuels. They are often used to create artificial scents, and some carry moisture in products. The long-term health effects of petrochemicals are not yet known, but they are very potent (some are added to paint and anti-freeze). These substances suffocate and age the skin. They also disrupt the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. Petrochemicals may be listed as petroleum, mineral oil, propylene glycol, parabens, and liquid paraffin on product labels.


An important point to remember about some personal care ingredients is that, while individual products may contain small amounts of one or more of these ingredients, you can be exposed to them through the use of many different products. So there is a cumulative effect when multiple products are used each day. We also don’t know how these various ingredients interact with each other in the body. So when it comes to personal care products, I try to err on the side of caution and avoid as many of them as possible.

Are there ingredients that you try to avoid in personal care products?


“Fragrance.” The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Web. 20 September 2013.

Gavigan, Christopher. Healthy Child, Healthy World. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

“Parabens.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 31 October 2007. Web. 19 September 2013.

You might also like… 

More About Parabens

More About Parabens

Why We Have a Household Ban on Triclosan

Why We Have a Household Ban on Triclosan


The Many Uses of Castile Soap