Scientists Say: Triclosan

This chemical can kill bacteria


Some soaps used to contain triclosan, a chemical that helped kill bacteria. But the United States banned that use in 2016.


Triclosan (noun, “TRY-kloh-san”)

This is a chemical that can kill bacteria. Companies have put it into toothpastes, soaps, hand sanitizers and other products to increase their germ-busting power. But triclosan washes down drains and into waterways. There, it can kill off good germs. Triclosan can also promote the development of bacteria that are resistant to triclosan and other germ-killers, including lifesaving antibiotics. That’s why, in 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned triclosan — and some similar chemicals — from use in soaps. Soap alone should be enough to beat back the bad bacteria.

In a sentence

When triclosan ends up in streams, it can harm tiny water fleas that feed fish and other aquatic critters.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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