Goodbye Triclosan (and Triclocarban)

Back when I was an ID fellow, I completed a national survey (along with Anthony Harris) of the availability of tricolsan and triclocarban containing antibacterial soaps. At the time, the industry wouldn't release the use or sales data we needed to estimate a population risk from these chemicals. We found that 76% of liquid soaps and 29% of bar soaps sold to consumers contained these agents. Fifteen years ago we concluded: "with limited documented benefits and experimental laboratory evidence suggesting possible adverse effects on the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, consumer antibacterial use of this magnitude should be questioned."

Well, patience is a virtue. Today, the FDA issued a rule banning triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other agents in hand soaps and body washes. The ban does not apply to antibacterial soaps used in healthcare settings. In a press release, the FDA stated:

"there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health."

It's nice to see positive change happen in your lifetime. It's also nice not to have to read a soap's ingredients before washing our hands.


  1. Just for posterity sake, I wanted to bury this backstory here in the comments. This soap survey data was my first ever abstract/poster. IDSA did a press release and I did many media interviews locally (Times-Picayune, evening news) and nationally (NPR, ABC). What I'm most proud of, however, is that when asked to do an interview with Dan Rather on CBS News at the same time that I had dinner reservations (Emerils) with my wife, I chose my wife and the great garlic soup - I have zero regrets.



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