Triclosan - information sheet

Phenol, 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)
CAS Registry Number 3380-34-5

Updated November 24, 2018:

The Final Assessment for Triclosan was published in November 2016, as part of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP). The assessment is summarized in this information sheet (formerly public summary) and has not changed. The section in this information sheet entitled "Preventive actions and reducing risk" communicates risk management activities, namely:

  • Publication of a proposed pollution prevention planning notice for a 60-day public comment period ending on January 23, 2019

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  • The Government of Canada conducted a science-based evaluation of triclosan, called an assessment, to address the potential for harm to Canadians and the environment.
  • Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), the risk posed by a substance is determined by considering both its hazardous properties (its potential to cause adverse human health or ecological effects) and the amount of exposure there is to people or to the environment. A substance may have hazardous properties; however, the risk to human health or to the environment may be low depending upon the level of exposure.
  • Considering information presented in the assessment, it was concluded that triclosan is entering or may enter the environment at levels that are harmful to the environment, but not to human health, at current levels of exposure.

About this substance

  • The assessment focused on 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy), also known as triclosan. Triclosan was identified as a potential concern to the environment. As a result, triclosan was assessed under CEPA 1999.
  • Triclosan is a chemical that does not occur naturally in the environment. It 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 could be used in cosmetics, drugs, natural health products and cleaning products.
  • Triclosan is not manufactured in Canada but is imported into the country in products, and as a pure substance to manufacture products in Canada.
  • 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 as of December 31, 2014. Triclosan is no longer registered in Canada as a pest control product.

Exposure of Canadians and the environment

  • Canadians can be exposed to triclosan by using various products, including cosmetics, drugs and natural health products.
  • Other sources could include drinking water and house dust.
  • Use of products containing triclosan results in release of the substance to wastewater systems. Triclosan is not fully removed from wastewater during treatment; it can be released to surface water thus exposing aquatic organisms.
  • Application of organic matter from wastewater treatment systems to agricultural soil can result in releases of triclosan to soil in these locations.

Key health and ecological effects (hazard)

  • Available information from laboratory studies indicates that triclosan may have effects on liver function. This was considered to be the important or "critical" effect used for determining the risk to human health in this assessment. Effects on the endocrine system, specifically on the thyroid, were also considered.
  • A review of available information on the potential for triclosan to cause antimicrobial resistance was conducted. Based on available information, there is no clear link between products containing triclosan and increased antimicrobial resistance.
  • Triclosan is highly toxic to a variety of aquatic organisms, such as algae and fish. Adverse effects observed include reduced growth, reproduction and survival, and there is evidence of effects on the endocrine system of aquatic organisms at environmentally relevant concentrations. This substance is also highly toxic to certain soil organisms.

Risk assessment outcomes

  • A comparison of levels to which Canadians can be exposed and the levels associated with health effects was completed to determine the risk of harm to human health.
  • Exposure of the general population to triclosan was determined using the available Canadian biomonitoring data for triclosan from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) Cycle 2 (2009-2011), the Plastic and Personal-Care Product Use in Pregnancy (P4) Study, and the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) and MIREC-Child Development Plus (MIREC-CD Plus) studies, which take into account exposures to triclosan from all sources. Exposure to children under the age of 3 years old was determined using a combination of Canadian biomonitoring data (for infants and children 3-5 years old) and additional estimates to account for potential exposures through breast milk, household dust and mouthing of triclosan-treated plastic products. At current levels of exposure, triclosan is not harmful to human health.    
  • Results of the assessment indicated that triclosan can adversely affect aquatic organisms, even at very low concentrations. Considering its continuous release from wastewater treatment systems to water courses, triclosan may cause harm to freshwater organisms.
  • Based on the information available, there is risk of harm to organisms.
  • The Government of Canada published the Final Assessment for Triclosan on November 26, 2016.

Assessment conclusions

  • As a result of the assessment, the Government concluded that triclosan is entering or may enter the environment at levels that are harmful to the environment.
  • However, the Government also concluded that triclosan is not harmful to human health at current levels of exposure.

Preventive actions and reducing risk

Related information

  • Triclosan is not a concern for the health of the general population in Canada at current levels of exposure.
  • Canadians concerned about environmental releases of triclosan from hand and body soaps can wash with water and soap that does not contain triclosan.
  • Triclosan should be identified on the list of ingredients of any cosmetics, drugs, and natural health products that contain it.
  • Canadians should always follow any safety warnings and directions on product labels and dispose of products responsibly.
  • 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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