What is Triclosan?

Triclosan is a chemical that appears as a white powder that has no odour or a very slight aromatic odour. It is an antibacterial and antifungal that stops or slows the growth of germs such as bacteria and mildew. 

What is Triclosan used for?

Triclosan was previously found commonly in many consumer goods such as; personal care products, cosmetics, household cleaning products, athletic clothing and food packaging to name a few. It’s antibacterial properties made it a popular ingredient in; hand soaps, body washes and toothpastes, however research soon uncovered that the benefits of triclosan might not outweigh the costs. Research has shown that triclosan; alters hormones in animals, possibly causes cancer in humans, as well as possibly being a contributing factor to creating antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’. Whilst further research must be conducted before we reach any conclusions, manufacturers have not been able to demonstrate that the ingredient makes these products more effective than their sans-triclosan counterparts. For this reason, in September 2016, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned consumer personal care products (soaps, body washes) containing triclosan. 

Triclosan was a common ingredient in hand soaps before its risks were widely known.
Triclosan was a common ingredient in hand soaps before its risks were widely known.

Triclosan Hazards

You can be exposed to triclosan through; inhalation, ingestion or skin and eye contact.

Whilst inhalation of triclosan is not thought to produce serious respiratory irritation, inhalation of dusts or fumes over prolonged periods, may produce discomfort and distress. People who already suffer with an existing respiratory condition such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis,  may incur further disability if inhaling high concentrations of the chemical. 

Ingestion of large doses of triclosan may be damaging to the liver. Symptoms can include; nausea, stomach pains, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, lay-coloured stools and jaundice. 

Triclosan produces mild skin irritation when exposed to the chemical. It can appear as; inflammation, redness, swelling and sometimes progressing to blistering. Skin should be inspected for open cuts and wounds before handling as entry into the bloodstream can lead to other harmful health effects. 

Triclosan vapours can be irritating when absorbed by the eye, with possible inflammation, redness and pain resulting. Permanent vision impairment may also result if treatment is not sought promptly. 

Triclosan Safety

If triclosan has been inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area and take to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. Lay the patient down and keep them warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR.

If swallowed, seek medical attention immediately and do not induce vomiting. If vomiting is inevitable, lean the patient forward or on their left side to prevent aspiration. Give them water to rinse out their mouth and provide liquid slowly as much as they can comfortably drink. Seek medical attention. 

In the event of exposure to the skin; remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Contaminated clothing must be washed before wearing again.Seek medical attention if irritation persists.  

If eye exposure occurs, remove any contact lenses and flush the eye with running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. 

Triclosan Safety Handling

Adequate ventilation must be available when the chemical and local exhaust ventilation should be installed if required. 

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical.

The recommended PPE for handling triclosan includes:

  • Safety glasses with side shields
  • Chemical goggles
  • Dust respirator
  • Gloves
  • Overalls
  • PVC aprons
  • Boots

Chemwatch has the largest collection of SDS in the world. For a FREE copy of the Chemwatch-authored SDS for Triclosan, click the button below.