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Triclosan - a problematic substance

Triclosan is an antimicrobial active substance that is effective against, bacteria, fungi and enveloped viruses. It is used as a biocide and preservative and is present in numerous cosmetic products such as toothpaste, antibacterial hand soaps, disinfectants and detergents.

Triclosan, which exhibits chemical persistence, has been demonstrated to accumulate in aquatic organisms as a result of the increasing use of the substance worldwide. It is characterised by very high toxicity and hence is an environmental hazard. In addition, in the Review of Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 by the European Parliament from November 2018, it is named as a suspected endocrine disruptor.

 

The following health disorders are suspected of being caused by triclosan:

  • Reduced fertility

  • Increased risk of miscarriage

  • Decreased weight, size and head circumference of babies

  • To a limited extent, epidemiological indications of allergic conditions 

  • Increased blood values for markers of oxidative stress and the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine 

  • Possible growth of liver tumours and liver inflammation

 

In 2006, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) advised against the large-scale use of triclosan in households due to concerns about bacteria developing resistance. In 2017, researchers from the University of Birmingham published a study showing that microbes resistant to quinolone antibiotics (e.g. clioquinol) also displayed defence mechanisms against triclosan. 

 

The decision of 8 February 2016 of the EU Biocides Regulation banned the use of triclosan in hygiene products applied to large areas of skin. However, triclosan is still present in products such as toothpaste, soaps and shower gels, and also as a biocide in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.

In the dermatology sector, triclosan is also a component of some extemporaneous preparations (NRF 11.135 and NRF 11.122) and customised formulations.

Clinics and practices are therefore recommended to subject the prescription or use of topical preparations containing triclosan to careful examination.

© Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Susanne Saha 03/2021

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