Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

CAP: Ban antibacterial agents that are harmful to health and environment

The Consumers Association of Penang calls on the authorities to impose an immediate ban on triclosan and 18 other antibacterial agents as these chemicals are capable of causing harm to health and environment.

Studies have shown that triclosan affects thyroid, testosterone, and estrogen regulation, which can create a host of health problems such as early puberty, poor sperm quality, infertility, obesity, and cancer.  It can lead to impaired learning and memory, exacerbate allergies, and weaken muscle function.

The impacts of prolonged exposure to triclosan during foetal development, infancy, and childhood can be particularly severe, resulting in permanent damage.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effect of triclosan as  prolonged exposure to the chemical have been shown to have a higher chance of developing allergies, including  peanut allergies and hay fever.

Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products intended to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination and originally was used in the 1970s by surgeons to wash their hands before operations.

Since then, its use has expanded commercially and it is prevalent in soaps, toothpastes and in consumer products such clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys.

In a CAP survey we found a wide range of products containing triclosan such as antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, hand washes, shower gels and even body shampoos for children.

We also found a wide range of products such as floor and toilet cleaning agents that claimed to be antibacterial but does not mention the chemical present. As the laws in Malaysia does not make it compulsory for manufacturers to label the chemical content of their products, consumers  do not know whether triclosan or other harmful chemicals are used.

Recently, the US banned triclosan and 18 other antibacterial agents in hand and body washes because there is no scientific evidence that products with such chemicals are better than plain soap and water in preventing illness or stopping the spread of certain infections. Such products have also not been proven safe for long-term daily use.

The chemical is capable of penetrating the skin and enter the bloodstream easily.  A US government study found triclosan in the urine of 75% of subjects tested. It has also shown up in the breast milk of nursing mothers

Research has shown that triclosan is found throughout the environment. It has been found in water, soil, and even in fish. The worldwide contamination by triclosan raises the possibility that bacteria exposed to it could develop resistance, which can effects human health.

The purpose of using an anti-bacterial agent is to prevent transmission of disease-causing microorganisms. While triclosan has proven effective in preventing hospital acquired infections, there is no data demonstrating extra health benefits from having antibacterial-containing cleansers in a healthy household. A study of 200 healthy households found that those households that used anti bacterial products did not have any reduced risk from infectious disease.

In view of the health and environmental hazards associated with triclosan and 18 other antibacterial agents banned in the US. CAP calls on the authorities to prohibit the production, importation, distribution and sale of products containing these chemicals as they are capable of causing  harm to health and environment.

Consumers can stay protected from bacteria without antibacterial by following these simple guidelines:

- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Regular soap lowers the surface tension of water, helping to attach to and wash away unwanted bacteria. Lather the hands for at least 10 to 15 seconds and then rinse them off in warm water. It is important to wash the hands often, especially when handling food, before eating, after going to the toilet and when someone is sick in the house.

- Take time to teach children the correct way to wash their hands.

- Dry hands with clean towel to help brush off any germs that did not get washed away.

- Wash surfaces that come in contact with food with soap and water.

- Wash children’s hands and toys regularly to prevent infection

Press Statement, 4 October 2017