Triclosan is a competent antimicrobial agent against bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but not spores. At biocidal levels Triclosan reacts with multiple cytoplasmic and membrane targets while at lower concentrations, it is bacteriostatic and targets bacteria primarily by inhibiting fatty acid synthesis. While indications that Triclosan does have fungicidal and virucidal capabilities, the mechanism of action have not yet been investigated in depth. Multiple resistances to Triclosan have been reported in peer-reviewed studies. This has lead to quite an outcry in terms to the appropriateness of its use in household products.
Triclosan can pass through skin and is suspected of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption). U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists detected triclosan in the urine of nearly 75 per cent of those tested (2,517 people ages six years and older). The European Union classifies triclosan as irritating to the skin and eyes, and as very toxic to aquatic organisms, noting that it may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. Environment Canada likewise categorized triclosan as potentially toxic to aquatic organisms, bioaccumulative, and persistent. In other words, it doesn't easily degrade and can build up in the environment after it has been rinsed down the shower drain. In the environment, triclosan also reacts to form dioxins, which bioaccumulate and are toxic. A study conducted in 2006, found that exposing bullfrog tadpoles to levels triclosan commonly found in the environment can cause endocrine disruption and more recently, a study conducted by the University of Minnesota determined that triclosan is being found in increasing amounts in several Minnesota freshwater lakes. The findings are directly linked to increased triclosan use over the past few decades.
Here’s how we would score Triclosan on the key decision making criteria:
• Speed of Disinfection – C
o Primary uses of Triclosan are as a sanitizer or bacteriostatic agent
o Expected contact times to achieve disinfection will be dependent upon concentration and range from 5 to 10 minutes
• Spectrum of Kill – B to C
o Achieves disinfection against all microorganisms; bacteria, viruses and fungi but efficacy is concentration dependent
• Cleaning Effectiveness – D
o Triclosan itself does not have detergent properties; cleaning and detergency properties of Triclosan-based formulations results from the detergents added as part of the formulation.
• Safety Profile – C to D
o Has been proven to have endocrine disruption properties
o Status of Health & Safety profile differs between countries, but
• Environmental Profile – D
o Bioaccumulative in the environment and reacts to form more toxic by-products (dioxins)
o Concerns with Aquatic Toxicity
• Cost Effectiveness – B to C
o Products are available from a number of suppliers
**For more in-depth scientific information about Alcohol and other disinfectant chemistries, stay tuned to www.infectionpreventionresource.com.