Antibacterials in Many Consumer Products Cause More Harm Than Good, Say Experts

Two antimicrobial chemicals already banned in antiseptic wash products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are still found in more than 2,000 widely used consumer products, despite offering no health benefits and actually causing health and environmental harm, according to more than 200 scientists and medical professionals.

Writing in a consensus statement in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the experts agreed that non-medical uses of antimicrobials like triclosan and triclocarban should be reduced. They called for more caution in using them in everyday products like toothpaste, detergents, clothing, toys, school supplies  carpets, exercise mats, food storage containers, kitchenware, and countertops.

“Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do,” said Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network.  

Environmental and human exposures to triclosan and triclocarban are already widespread, according to sustainability scientist Rolf Halden, of Arizona State University. A 2008 study of U.S. residents found these antimicrobials in the urine of about 75 percent of people tested, and a U.S. Geological Survey found triclosan in 60 percent of U.S. streams. In addition to the endocrine disruption, potential health impacts include allergies, worsening asthma, and antiobitic resistance.