Antimicrobials (e.g. Triclosan, Triclocarban, Nanosilver)

Found In

Personal care products, soaps, hand sanitizers; clothing; textiles; kitchen tools; baby products; toys; craft supplies; building materials.

Health Effects

Triclosan, triclocarban: hormone disruption, antibiotic resistance;
Triclosan – allergies, skin irritation, fetal malformations; 
Nanosilver – persistent, toxicity in animals.

More details

Numerous chemicals are added to consumer products for their antimicrobial properties. These products include personal care products, as noted, as well as clothing, textiles, kitchen items, towels, toys, mattresses and baby care products. Because antimicrobials are ubiquitous in textiles and other consumer products used in the home, they are commonly found in house dust. One study found a strong correlation between the presence of antimicrobials in house dust and detection of antibiotic resistance genes.i Consumers, scientists and federal agencies are starting to question the safety and efficacy of these chemicals. The FDA is now banning the use of nineteen antimicrobial chemicals in cleansing products for personal use, because manufacturers have failed to demonstrate the efficacy of these chemicals in the face of a growing body of information showing health risks.ii

Triclosan, a widely used antimicrobial chemical is persistent in the environment and is found in human urine, blood and breast milk. CDC biomonitoring has detected triclosan in the urine of 75% of people tested.iii One study found an increased risk of fetal malformations was associated with higher levels of triclosan in maternal and fetal cord blood.iv Another study found an association between low birth weight and decreased gestational age with fetal exposure to triclocarban.v Exposure to triclosan is associated with contact dermatitis,vi responsiveness to airway allergens,vii food sensitization and adverse effects on muscle health.viii Triclosan is also a hormone disruptor and there is evidence of endocrine disrupting properties of triclocarban as well.ix GreenScreen® hazard assessments of triclosan and triclocarban yield scores of Benchmark 1 (avoid - chemical of high concern) and Benchmark 2 (search for safer alternatives) respectively. Both chemicals are ecotoxic and persistent in the environment, but triclosan is also acutely and systemically toxic.x A consensus statement by 200 leading scientists and health professionals documents the hazards of triclosan and triclocarban and lack of demonstrated benefit.xi

Nanosilver is also widely used as an antimicrobial in consumer products with potential to be released into the water, air and soil. One study detected its presence in clothing, toothpaste, a medical mask, shampoo, detergent, a towel, a teddy bear and two humidifiers, as well as its release into wash water.xii More study of human health effects is needed to fill data gaps on nanosilver, but a GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals evaluation of hazards associated with nanosilver yielded a score of Benchmark 1 (avoid - chemical of high concern), for conventional silver as well as for one form of nanosilver, due to its very high persistence and evidence of high ecotoxicity and systemic toxicity from repeat doses.xiii


i Hartmann EM, Hickey R, Hsu T, Betancourt Roman CM et al. Antimicrobial chemicals are associated with elevated antibiotic resistance genes in the indoor dust microbiome. Environ Sci Technology. 2016;50:9807-15.

ii FDA,

iii Dhillon GS, Kaur S, Pulicharla R, Brar SK et al. Triclosan: current status, occurrence, environmental risks and bioaccumulation potential. Int J of Environ Research and Public Health. 2015;12:5657-84.

iv Wei L, Qiao P, Shi Y, Ruan Y et al. Triclosan/triclocarban levels in maternal and umbilical cord blood samples and their association with fetal malformation. Clin Chim Acta. 2017;466:133-37.

v Geer LA, Pycke BF, Waxenbaum J, Sherer DM et al. Association of birth outcomes with fetal exposure to parabens, triclosan and triclocarban in an immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York. J Hazard Mater. 2017;323(PtA):177-83.

vi Robertshaw H, Leppard B. Contact dermatitis to triclosan in toothpaste. Contact Dermatitis. 2007;57(6):383-384.

vii Ginsberg GL, Balk SJ. Consumer products as sources of chemical exposures to children: case study off triclosan. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016;28(2):235-42.

viii Pycke BF, Geer LA, Dalloul M, Abulafia O et al. Human fetal exposure to triclosan and triclocarban in an urban population from Brooklyn, New York. Environ Sci Techn. 2014;48:8831-38,

ix Chen J, Chang Ahn K, Gee NA, Ahmed MI et al. Triclocarban enhances testosterone action: a new type of endocrine disruptor? Endocrinology. 2008;149(3):1173-79.

x Clean Production Action,

xi Halden RU, Lindeman AE, Aiello AE, Andrews D et al. The Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban. Environ Health Perspectives. 2017;125(6):1-13.

xii Benn T, Cavanagh B, Hristovski K, Posner JD, Westerhoff P. The release of nanosilver from consumer products used in the home. J Environ Quality. 2009;39(6):1875-82.

xiii Sass J, Heine L, Hwang N. Use of a modified GreenScreen tool to conduct a screening-level comparative hazard assessment of conventional silver and two forms of nanosilver. Environ Health. 2016;15:105