Triclosan (Phenol, 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)- public summary

CAS Registry Number 3380-34-5

What is it?

  • The substance phenol, 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy), also known as triclosan, is an industrial chemical. It does not occur naturally in the environment.

How is it used?

  • Triclosan is used as an antimicrobial agent and preservative in a variety of products to stop the growth of bacteria, fungus and mildew, and to deodorize.
  • It is used in personal care products, which include cosmetics, natural health products and non-prescription drug products, as well as in cleaning products.
  • Triclosan is no longer registered in Canada as a pest control product.
  • Triclosan is not manufactured in Canada but is imported into the country, through finished products and as a pure substance to manufacture finished products in Canada.

Why did the Government of Canada assess it?

  • Prior to the assessment, triclosan was identified as a potential concern to the environment. As a result, triclosan was assessed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
  • In addition, triclosan as a pest control product was scheduled for re-evaluation by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency. Pest control products containing triclosan were voluntarily discontinued by registrants as of December 31, 2014.

How are Canadians exposed to it?

  • Canadians can be exposed to triclosan by using various products, including personal care products and cleaning products.
  • Other sources could include drinking water, breast milk and house dust.

How is it released into the environment?

  • Use of products containing triclosan results in release of the substance to wastewater systems. Since triclosan is not fully removed from wastewater during treatment, it can be released to surface water.
  • Application of organic matter from wastewater treatment systems to agricultural soil can result in releases of triclosan to soil in these locations.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted a science-based evaluation of triclosan.
  • The assessment addresses the potential for harm to the general population of Canada and the environment.
  • Results of the assessment indicate that triclosan can adversely affect aquatic organisms, even at very low concentrations. As a result of its continuous releases from wastewater treatment systems to water courses, triclosan may cause harm to freshwater organisms.
  • Results of the assessment indicate that triclosan is not expected to affect soil organisms following application of organic matter from wastewater treatment systems to agricultural soil.
  • The Government of Canada has therefore concluded that triclosan is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or under conditions that may constitute a danger to the environment.
  • However, the Government of Canada has concluded that triclosan is not harmful to human health at current levels of exposure.

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • The Government of Canada published the Assessment for Triclosan and the Proposed Risk Management Approach for Triclosan on November 26, 2016.
  • The proposed risk management approach outlines the risk management instrument under consideration to reduce the release of the substance into the environment. The proposed risk management approach is subject to a 60-day public comment period, ending January 25, 2017.
  • Triclosan is included in the Chemicals Management Plan Monitoring and Surveillance Program, which monitors different chemicals’ levels in the environment. Levels of triclosan found in the blood and urine of Canadians are being measured through the Canadian Health Measures Survey.
  • For human health protection, Health Canada's Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist includes concentration limits for triclosan in mouthwash (equal to or less than 0.03%) and in other cosmetic products (equal to or less than 0.3%).
  • Non-prescription drugs that contain triclosan as an active ingredient are regulated under the Food and Drugs Act which states that the permitted concentration can range from 0.1 to 1.0%.
  • Health Canada's Natural Health Products Ingredients Database also indicates concentration limits for triclosan when used as a non-medicinal ingredient in mouthwashes (0.03%), dentifrices (0.3%), or topical products (0.3%) for licensing as natural health products.
  • The Government of Canada will build upon current efforts to develop policies to address concerns related to the use of antimicrobials.
  • The Canadian registrants voluntarily discontinued the sale of pest control products containing triclosan for use as a material preservative in textiles (including leather), paper, food contact material such as cutting boards and countertops, plastic, and rubber materials. Consequently, as of December 31, 2014, triclosan is no longer registered in Canada as a pest control product.

What can Canadians do?

  • The health risks associated with a chemical depend on the hazard (its potential to cause health effects) and the amount of chemical to which a person is exposed.
  • Triclosan is not presently a concern for the health of the general population in Canada at current levels of exposure.
  • Triclosan should be identified on the list of ingredients of any cosmetics, natural health products, and non-prescription drugs that contain it.
  • Canadians concerned about environmental releases of triclosan from hand and body soaps can wash with water and soap that does not contain triclosan.
  • As a general precaution, Canadians are reminded when using any products to carefully follow any safety warnings and directions and to dispose of the products appropriately.
  • Canadians who may be exposed to triclosan in the workplace should consult with their employer and occupational health and safety (OHS) representative about safe handling practices, applicable laws and requirements under OHS legislation and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
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