Revisiting Triclosan

Last November, we were part of a group of over 50 health and environmental non-profits organizations that signed onto a public statement in support of prohibiting the use of Triclosan (a harmful anti-microbial agent) in Canada.


Wondering what came of that? Us, too.

On July 27 of this year, we were part of a joint NGO letter urging the government to take action on Triclosan. Our letter advised the Government of Canada to finalize its decision on Triclosan and find the chemical toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,1999 (CEPA 1999). We reiterated our support for the prohibition of Triclosan in all products.

The draft risk assessment of Triclosan, which was completed in 2012, advised the government to declare the chemical toxic and be added to the Toxics Substances List. Over 3.5 years later, we’re still waiting for this to happen.


Our July letter comes on the heels of the Federal Government’s Third Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada, which showed the presence and quantity of contaminants present in Canadians.

Results were sampled from 5,800 Canadians aged 3-79. Triclosan, one of the harmful chemicals measured in the sample population, is one of the only toxic chemicals measured to have increased in our population since the last study.  Both BPA and lead levels, for example, have decreased.


What is Triclosan?

Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical linked to endocrine disruption, meaning it interferes with hormone function.1 It’s primarily used in antibacterial soaps and boady washes, toothpastes, and other cosmetic products. The chemical passes through the skin and can be irritating to the skin and eyes.

Environmentally, it has been noted that Triclosan quite possibility causes long-term adverse effects in aquatic environments. Triclosan is bioaccumulative and persistent – meaning it takes a long time to break down and subsequently builds up in the environment.1


So why isn’t it banned yet?

Good question. Primarily, the challenge comes because Triclosan is so widely used. The amount of Triclosan that can be used in products is actually quite limited, but since it is bioaccumulative and toxic, it quickly adds up in our bodies and natural environments.1

Yet, leading scientists and health professionals have called for urgent action on Triclosan, due to increasing antibiotic resistance and the ongoing toxic effects in the environment – particularly in Canadian lakes and rivers.2

Some major retailers, inclugin Loblaws, are promising to remove triclosan from all products by 2018 (Loblaws has also promised to remove microbeads and phthalates by this date as well).3


We hope our recent letter helps push Triclosan towards being banned in Canada, for the health of Canadians and all of our watersheds.



1. David Suzuki Foundation. Triclosan. 2015. Retrieved from:

2. Health Canada. July 15, 2015. Government of Canada releases latest data on exposure to environmental chemicals. Retrieved from:

3. Friend, David. June 11, 2015. Loblaw Companies Ltd removing microbeads, Triclosan, phthalates, from beauty products by 2018. Retrieved from: