You may have read articles in the media reporting on a recently published study* which looks at the use of the ingredient Triclosan and questions whether there are safety issues with its use in cosmetic products. We understand the alarm this is likely to cause and would like to reassure consumers that there is no reason to avoid cosmetic products containing Triclosan, which is safe to use and provides real health benefits to consumers.
What the Study Says
The researchers looked at the exposure of Triclosan in mice and its effect on their livers. In some instances there was a raised incidence of liver tumours in some mice that have been fed Triclosan-rich diets. In the published paper the authors do not, and cannot, make a direct link between this study and whether Triclosan will affect the liver in humans.
Dr Chris Flower, Former Director-General of the CTPA, and a Chartered Biologist and toxicologist, says:
"The current study in mice is interesting but it is too early to say whether it adds anything to the safety evaluation of Triclosan as used in everyday life. The true significance of any study can only be judged as part of the complete picture of all of the available information, taking into account the dose and route of exposure involved and all the other facts regarding the new study including, in this case, the way the mouse handles Triclosan compared with man. It is also worth noting that the level of exposure to Triclosan in the study was far higher than the amount we encounter in everyday products.
"The full details of the study must be placed into context by experts. Given the known differences between species (i.e. mice and humans), this study should not be taken in isolation and certainly there is no need to believe that the decisions taken by regulatory bodies across the world to accept Triclosan as safe and effective are incorrect. Consumers can continue to use products containing Triclosan in safety."
Why is Triclosan used?
Triclosan is used in personal care products because it effectively inhibits the growth of bacteria. It can be used as a preservative to protect the product from deterioration and also helps to reduce bacteria on the skin, which is why it is used in deodorants and handwashes, and in the mouth, which is why it is used in toothpastes and mouthwashes. This helps to prevent the spread of germs, reduces the risk of infections, maintains the oral cavity (teeth and gums) in good condition and controls body odour.
Confidence in the Safety of Triclosan
Triclosan is one of the most studied substances, natural or man-made, in use today. There are a wealth of data and studies that show the safety of Triclosan as it is used in a range of consumer products, including some cosmetics (for example toothpastes and handwashes). Those studies cover the safety of Triclosan to humans (including any possible risk of harm to babies and infants before birth, i.e. during pregnancy, and after the birth, i.e. when breastfeeding), animals and the environment, including questions about the risk of antimicrobial resistance (i.e. the loss of effectiveness of the antimicrobial agent).
How can we confident in its safety?
In Europe the safety of all cosmetic products is covered by strict safety laws, which require a safety assessment be carried out on each product before it is made available for use by the consumer. As well as this, cosmetic ingredients and their safety are kept under constant review by the European Commission and EU member states, assisted by the Commission's independent scientific expert committee (the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety, SCCS). The SCCS has issued several opinions supporting the use of Triclosan as a safe and effective ingredient in cosmetic products as follows: up to 0.3% in toothpastes, hand and body soaps, shower gels, deodorants, face powders, blemish concealers and nail cleansers; and up to 0.2% in mouthwashes. These opinions are only issued after a thorough review of all of the available scientific evidence.