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This School Year, Parents Encouraged to Fight Germs without Hazardous Antibacterials

(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2009) As children return to school, health and environmental groups are encouraging parents to protect their children from harmful germs without using hazardous chemicals in lunch bags, school supplies, soaps and sanitizers. The dangers of and alternatives to using triclosan (often marketed as Microban) and the related compound triclocarban, are documented in new educational materials for parents.

The factsheet, What’s the right answer to the germ question?, by Beyond Pesticides and Food & Water Watch, pulls together information from various scientific studies documenting the adverse impacts of triclosan on health and the environment, as well as antibiotic and antibacterial resistance. It also provides alternatives, cites Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for hand washing and disease prevention, and lists triclosan-free brands and retailers.

Triclosan is associated with skin irritation or eczema, has been shown to interfere with the body’s hormones, and has been linked to an increased risk of developing respiratory illness, or asthma, and cancer, as well as subtle effects on learning ability. Because the chemical goes down the drain, it also wreaks havoc with the environment, converting to highly toxic dioxins and contaminating waterways and wildlife. Furthermore, by killing some, but not all bacteria, widespread triclosan use has led to resistant strains and cross resistance with antibiotics. See Beyond Pesticides’ Triclosan program page for study citations.

Handwashing with soap and water is essential. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel concluded that triclosan soaps are no more effective than washing hands with soap and water. The CDC recommends that children wash their hands several times a day for 20 seconds or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

“Considering the health risks associated with triclosan use and increased bacterial resistance, consumers may actually be doing more harm than good,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Parents should follow CDC recommendations and protect their children by washing hands with warm soap and water.”

Ikea, The Body Shop and Whole Foods Markets sell only triclosan-free products. Other triclosan-free brands and products include: CleanWell, LUSH, Nature’s Gate, Vermont Country, Naked Soap Works, MiEssence, Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer, Ivory, Paul’s Organic, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Tom’s of Maine, The Natural Dentist, Listerine Essential Care, Peelu, Weleda and Toxic Free Basics.

To download What’s the right answer to the germ question? or for more information, including tips on how to get triclosan out of your school, office or community, or visit Beyond Pesticides’ Triclosan program page.


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