Pesticide in Soap, Toothpaste and Breast Milk - Is It Kid-Safe?

Summary & Recommendations

July 17, 2008

Pesticide in Soap, Toothpaste and Breast Milk - Is It Kid-Safe?: Triclosan No Better Than Plain Soap

The American Medical Association, Food and Drug Administration, and at least 40 researchers from 13 universities and public institutions worldwide have concluded that antimicrobial soap does not work any better than plain soap and water at preventing the spread of infections or reducing bacteria on the skin, according to our survey of the scientific literature and published agency positions. Findings from each of these sources are provided below.

American Medical Association, 2002

"Despite the recent substantial increase in the use of antimicrobial ingredients in consumer products, the effects of this practice have not been studied extensively. No data support the efficacy or necessity of antimicrobial agents in such products, and a growing number of studies suggest increasing acquired bacterial resistance to them. Studies also suggest that acquired resistance to the antimicrobial agents used in consumer products may predispose bacteria to resistance against therapeutic antibiotics, but further research is needed. Considering available data and the critical nature of the antibiotic-resistance problem, it is prudent to avoid the use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products."

Tan L, Nielsen NH, Young DC, Trizna Z. 2002. Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association. Use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products. Arch Dermatol. 138(8):1082-6.

Food and Drug Administration Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee, 2005

"The data we saw said handwashing was pretty effective, plain handwashing, and there was no data that I saw that was very convincing that antiseptic handwashing was substantially more effective."

Alastair Wood, M.D. (Committee Chair), FDA Non-Prescription Drugs Advisory Committee. October 20, 2005 meeting transcript p. 354-355. Available from

University of Minnesota, 2008

“The two antimicrobial soaps tested showed minimal virus reduction ... which is similar to that obtained by washing hands without any soap ... These results indicate that triclosan-containing antimicrobial soaps … may be inadequate for preventing norovirus transmission.”

Lages SL, Ramakrishnan MA, Goyal SM. 2008. In-vivo efficacy of hand sanitisers against feline calicivirus: a surrogate for norovirus. J Hosp Infect. 68(2):159-63.

University of Michigan, Columbia University, and Tufts University School of Medicine, 2007

“Soaps containing triclosan within the range of concentrations commonly used in the community setting (0.1%-0.45% wt/vol) were no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms and reducing bacterial levels on the hands.”

Aiello AE, Larson EL, Levy SB. 2007. Consumer antibacterial soaps: effective or just risky? Clin Infect Dis. 45 Suppl 2:S137-47.

Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland, 2007

“The benefit achieved by the addition of Triclosan was not statistically significant.”

“The results strongly argue for regular soap use against common dermatomycoses as a low-cost and effective treatment.”

Dinkela A, Ferié J, Mbata M, Schmid-Grendelmeier M, Hatz C. 2007. Efficacy of triclosan soap against superficial dermatomycoses: a double-blind clinical trial in 224 primary school-children in Kilombero District, Morogoro Region, Tanzania. Int J Dermatol. 46 Suppl 2:23-8.

Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health, 2006

“By washing one's hands, about 99% of the viruses can be removed, compared with simply rinsing one's hands in running water. Washing one's hands with alcohol, chlorhexidine, quaternary ammonium, or 3 other kinds of hand soaps (containing povidone-iodine, triclosan, and isopropylmethyl phenol, respectively), was also effective for removing viruses. These results suggest that washing one's hands may be an effective method of preventing viral gastroenteritis.”

Mori K, Hayashi Y, Noguchi Y, Kai A, Ohe K, Sakai S, Hara M, Morozumi S. 2006. [Effects of handwashing on Feline Calicivirus removal as Norovirus surrogate]. Kansenshogaku Zasshi. 80(5):496-500. [Article in Japanese]

University of Michigan, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Columbia University, 2005

“Currently, no evidence suggests that use of antibacterial soap containing 0.2% triclosan provides a benefit over plain soap in reducing bacterial counts and rate of infectious symptoms in generally healthy persons in the household setting.”

Aiello AE, Marshall B, Levy SB, Della-Latta P, Lin SX, Larson E. 2005. Antibacterial cleaning products and drug resistance. Emerg Infect Dis. 11(10): 1565-1570. Available from

University of North Carolina Health Care System, University of Maryland, and Duke University, 2005

“Effective hand hygiene for high levels of viral contamination with a nonenveloped virus was best achieved by physical removal with a nonantimicrobial soap or tap water alone.”

Sickbert-Bennett EE, Weber DJ, Gergen-Teague MF, Sobsey MD, Samsa GP, Rutala WA. 2005. Comparative efficacy of hand hygiene agents in the reduction of bacteria and viruses. Am J Infect Control. 33(2):67-77.

Columbia University, University of Michigan, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Tufts University School of Medicine, 2003

“Overall, there were no significant differences in pre-to-post handwashing counts at baseline (p = 0.41), but by the end of one year, post-wash counts were significantly lower than pre-wash (p = 0.000) for those using either antimicrobial or plain soap. There were no significant differences in mean log counts either before or after handwashing between those using the antimicrobial or plain soap at baseline or after a year of use (all p values > 0.28)... A single handwash had minimal effect on quantity of hand flora, but there were significant effects over time, regardless of whether antimicrobial or plain soap was used. In the absence of more definitive evidence, the risk-benefit ratio argues in favor of targeted rather than ubiquitous, general household use of antimicrobial soap.”

Larson E, Aiello A, Lee LV, Della-Latta P, Gomez-Duarte C, Lin S. 2003. Short- and long-term effects of handwashing with antimicrobial or plain soap in the community. J Community Health. 28(2):139-50.

Kansai Medical University, Osaka, Japan

“[Triclosan] was much less effective than hand soap against hand surface bacteria.”

Namura S, Nishijima S, McGinley KJ, Leyden JJ. 1993. A study of the efficacy of antimicrobial detergents for hand washing: using the full-hand touch plates method. J Dermatol. 20(2):88-93.

John Hopkins University School of Nursing and Columbia University, 1989

“There were no significant differences between products in mean log10 colony-forming units after the initial wash (p = 0.61), nor were there significant differences in products after 5 days among subjects washing six times per day.”

Larson E, Mayur K, Laughon BA. 1989. Influence of two handwashing frequencies on reduction in colonizing flora with three handwashing products used by health care personnel. Am J Infect Control. 17(2):83-8.

Researchers from Hospital Infection Research Laborabory, Birmingham England, 1988

“Alcoholic preparations, particularly n-propanol and isopropanol were the most effective showing LRs of 3.1-3.8. Chlorhexidine (LR 2.9) and povidone-iodine detergent preparations were significantly more effective than non-medicated soap (LR 2.1), but triclosan products were not.”

Ayliffe GA, Babb JR, Davies JG, Lilly HA. 1988. Hand disinfection: a comparison of various agents in laboratory and ward studies. J Hosp Infect. 11(3):226-43.