Dear EarthTalk: I heard about a supposed dangerous chemical called “triclosan” that is in many personal care and other consumer products. Can you enlighten? -- Carl Stoneman, Richland, WA
Triclosan is a synthetic chemical compound added to many personal and household care products to inhibit illness by preventing bacterial infection. It works by breaking down the biochemical pathways that bacteria use to keep their cell walls intact, and as such kills potentially harmful germs if used in strong enough formulations. First developed as a surgical scrub back in 1972, triclosan is now used in upwards of 700 different consumer-oriented products, many of which people use more than once a day. They include hand soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, kids’ toys, yoga mats and, of course, hand sanitizers.