Clothing, toys, cookware, cosmetics, soaps and toothpaste may contain triclosan. Triclosan is an additive that prevents bacterial contamination or boosts the antibacterial properties of a product.
Triclosan is a powdery white solid with possible antifungal and antibacterial properties. These properties make it useful in a variety of products where cleanliness and sanitation are important. Triclosan use began in the 1970s when it saw wide use as a hospital scrub. It now enjoys much wider use in commercial products, from toys to toothpaste.
Some debate surrounds triclosan use regarding its efficacy and toxicity. According to a 1997 study, toothpaste containing triclosan is better at preventing gingivitis than toothpaste without the additive. However, there is little evidence that triclosan-containing soaps clean better than any other soap products. Further, studies with animals suggest that triclosan has a negative effect on the immune system and that it affects hormone balance. As with other antibacterial substances, there is also concern that overuse of triclosan leads to stronger, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
FDA review of the safety and effectiveness of triclosan is ongoing. As of 2015, not enough evidence exists to remove triclosan from any consumer products. However, since there is also no evidence to suggest that triclosan is necessary in most products, the FDA recommends that concerned consumers avoid the additive.