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Triclosan bioaccumulates — it builds up in tissue as it moves up the food chain. It's toxic to aquatic ecosystems and suspected to have serious human health impacts. The Canadian Medical Association recommends triclosan be banned from household products, it's on Health Canada's Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist and rated a high hazard by the Environmental Working Group.
Some leading brands are phasing out triclosan in response to mounting pressure, but the process is slow.
In the meantime, here's how to dodge the dreaded triclosan:
1. Read labels: Triclosan is marketed under more than a dozen different names including Microban, Irgasan, Biofresh, Lexol-300, Ster-Zac and Cloxifenolum.
2. Avoid antibacterials: Beware of products claiming to be antimicrobial, germ fighting or antibacterial.
3. Switch to castile soap: Most liquid hand soaps contain triclosan. Pure castile soap and select cosmetics brands do not. (Dispose of triclosan-containing soaps safely. Do NOT pour them down drains.)
4. Check the EWG Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database: They rate triclosan as a high hazard. Choose products rated as safe (0-3).
5. Dust: Triclosan shows up in household dust, so a clean home is healthier.
8. Avoid treated materials: Triclosan is used as a preservative in textiles, leather, paper, plastic and rubber. Pay attention when purchasing towels, mattresses, bedding, sponges, carpets, shoes, mouse pads, yoga mats, shower curtains sportswear.
9. Check your hot tub: Triclosan is turning up in hot tub linings, too. A 2008 study found products containing triclosan can react with chlorine at warm temperatures to create chloroform.
10. Think small: A surprising number of school supplies contain triclosan, under the name Microban. Swap suspected items out for safer options.
11. Think big: Get active in your community. Work with your school, community center or office to eliminate antibacterial soaps and help keep our water systems — and us — triclosan free.
Tovah Paglaro, a fellow Queen of Green