Triclosan and Testosterone: Banned in EU, Still Used in the US
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
Triclosan (2,4,4′-Trichloro-2′-hydroxyphenyl ether) is an antibacterial and antifungal compound that has been in wide-spread use throughout the United States since the 60’s. It’s also a potent endocrine disruptor and a known carcinogen.
In fact, triclosan is such a nasty chemical that the European Union decided to ban the use of triclosan in 2010, and so did the state of Minnesota a few years ago.
However, apart from Minnesota, the rest of the United States still spends over 1 billion dollars annually on products that contain triclosan or its close relative; triclocarban.
It’s found in various everyday items, such as:
- antibacterial soaps and shampoos (Dial, Softsoap, Clearasil…)
- skin cleansing wipes (SaniCart)
- toothpaste (Colgate Total…)
- deodorants (Old Spice, Right Guard…)
- shaving gels (Gilette…)
- children’s toys (Playskool…)
- brake fluids (STP, Valvoline, Penzzoil…)
- antibacterial socks (Fruit of the Loom, Dickies…)
NOTE: On top of those, triclosan and triclocarban also hide in some refrigerators, dishwasher fluids, chopping boards, plastic lunchboxes, etc. You name it, the shit has been generously sprinkled on everything. Even after it’s been 5 years since triclosan was banned in EU, I could still go to my local supermarket in Finland and find you a cart-full of products containing the chemical. It’s everywhere.
But why I’m making such a noise about this silly old antibacterial pesticide? Well, you’re about to find out below:
Triclosan and Your Testosterone Levels
The FDA declared triclosan to be “safe” back in 1994. However, since then more recent studies have shown the chemical to be a potent endocrine disruptor and carcinogen.
FDA finally gave in and started “re-evaluating” the compound in 2013.
Based on the current evidence, they should stop their “re-evaluation” that takes years, and just ban the chemical already.
Here are some studies showing how triclosan impairs testosterone production:
a) In this study, the researchers wanted to find out the mechanism of action on why triclosan disrupts the biosynthesis of testosterone. They tested the chemical on isolated testicular Leydig cells with various dosages, and found out that triclosan dose-dependently decreases testosterone, and the mechanism is as follows: triclosan decreases the activity of adenylyl cyclase enzyme -> cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) levels drop -> as cAMP activity in testicles drops, the whole enzymatic process of converting cholesterol into testosterone gets impaired (lower P450, lower 3β-HSD, lower 17β-HSD, lower StaR protein) -> testosterone production is effectively suppressed (on a more brighter side, the researchers also found that forskolin, a potent cAMP boosting herb, was able to prevent these effects).
b) In this rodent study, triclosan significantly reduced testosterone levels, increased hepatic liver enzymes, and completely hammered thyroid hormones. In another rodent study, triclosan lowered luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, cholesterol synthesis, pregnenolone synthesis, and as you might already guess; decreased testosterone levels quite significantly. The mechanism? Exactly the same as in “a)” above.
c) In this in-vitro study, triclosan dose-dependently inhibited the transcriptional activity of testosterone. Another in-vitro study found that triclosan impairs steroid synthesis, and could potentially stimulate estrogen production. Estrogenic effects were also seen in this rodent study.
d) At this point, you might be wondering if this stuff actually gets into your body to exert those nasty effects. And according to few available human studies, it does indeed. The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that 75% of Americans have triclosan in their urine samples. When the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 49 participants for triclosan, 42 tested positive for the chemical. It’s also found in pregnant women and in breast milk, suggesting that the majority of US babies are in contact with the chemical from the very first moments of their lives…
After seeing the results of the studies above, one could think that there must be a very very very good reason for the wide-spread usage of triclosan. But there is not. Triclosan as an antibacterial and antifungal compound is pretty useless. Even the FDA has released the following statement on their website:
“the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”
More disturbing, few studies have shown that the continuous usage of triclosan-based soaps causes resistance to antibiotics (study, study, study, study).
Here’s a great presentation, showing how useless triclosan really is:
And here’s Senator John Marty explaining why they banned the compound in Minnesota:
How to Reduce Your Triclosan Exposure
At this point, you’re probably wondering how to reduce your exposure to triclosan. And luckily, there are few tricks that you can do to pretty much completely cut off your exposure to the substance.
First one is obviously tossing away all the “antibacterial” products from your house that you suspect could contain triclosan. Check your toothpaste, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, etc. Then switch everything to triclosan-free products.
NOTE: Triclosan is not the only endocrine disrupting compound in personal care items. Thus, why I personally use and recommend organic & natural hygiene products. If you don’t care to change everything, at least consider using these natural personal care items.
And the second thing would be to either drink spring water, or to drink only filtered tap water. This is because unfiltered tap water can contain traces of triclosan and also triclosan by-products (many of which are dioxins).
Triclosan is useless in what it’s proclaimed to do. The risks of the chemical easily out weight the benefits, which are pretty much non-existent anyway.
It will be only a matter of time before the FDA finally bans this useless chemical, but do you seriously have to wait for that?
Just toss away the triclosan laden “antibacterial” products and replace them with safer and equally as effective products.