Health Column: Triclosan, a tale of tadpoles, toothpaste, toys and trash-bags |

Health Column: Triclosan, a tale of tadpoles, toothpaste, toys and trash-bags

Phil Mohler, M.D.
Free Press Health Columnist
Bacteria Cells with selective focus
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Waiting for surgery in a hospital setting or skin infected with MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus), a shower or bath with an antibacterial soap containing two-percent triclosan is a proven infection fighter.

How about the triclosan in your hand cleaner, puppy shampoo, acne face wash, underpants, your eyeliner, your kids’ toys, garbage bags and your baby’s bath soap?


There is no evidence that antimicrobial soap products keep us healthier or reduce the spread of colds and flu more than regular soap. The only study showing a benefit was with Total toothpaste (contains triclosan). This clinical trial demonstrated a marginal advantage in preventing gum disease using Total vs. a non-triclosan toothpaste. Otherwise, there are no human data to support or condemn products containing triclosan.


Enter the North American Bullfrog. In 2006, scientists discovered that adding tiny amounts of triclosan to the diets of tadpoles interfered with their thyroid function and caused them to grow into frogs really, really quickly. Triclosan seems to change the metabolism of some fish as well. However, effects of chemicals in animals do not always predict effects in humans.

Population studies in the United States do reveal that 75 percent of adults and children have triclosan in their urine. Water environmentalists are concerned, as an increasing number of streams in America have identifiable triclosan.

Although there is no human data to support triclosan causing bacterial resistance to antibiotics, there are multiple studies in animals that show a link between long-term, low-dose exposure to triclosan and antibiotics that don’t work.


Increasing numbers of manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble are phasing triclosan out of their product lines.

Last December, the FDA gave manufacturers one year to come up with evidence of the heath benefits of triclosan to keep them on the market.

In the meantime, when available, read labels and pick products that are triclosan free.

GJ Free Press health columnist Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 39 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Email him at

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