The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) has on a request from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority conducted a risk assessment of the substance triclosan in cosmetics. The risk assessment involves problems related to possible development of resistant bacteria as well as toxicological effects of triclosan on health and the environment.
For a long time, triclosan has been used as a preservative, antiseptic and disinfectant, and the use of triclosan has increased greatly the last few years.
It is included in many contemporary consumer- and professional health-care products, particularly oral and dermal products, but also in household items including plastics, textiles and food packaging materials.
VKM concludes in its assessment that a widespread use of triclosan, including use in cosmetic products, can lead to a development of resistance against triclosan in bacteria. At the same time, a resistance against other clinically important antimicrobial agents can develop. Therefore, the use of triclosan should be restricted.
The current regulation of use of triclosan in cosmetic products is from a toxicological point of view a matter of concern and it is recommended that human exposure to triclosan should be reduced. Moreover, triclosan is classified as an agent that may cause adverse environmental effects and hence the use should be restricted also from an ecotoxicological standpoint.
The use of triclosan has been discussed in Norway and other European countries for many years. Two scientific committees in the EU concluded in 2002 that there is no convincing evidence that triclosan poses a risk to humans or to the environment by inducing or transmitting antibacterial resistance.
Norway has played an active part in the issue, and in 2003 the EU commission asked Norway for an assessment of the substance on the basis of new data. American authorities are also working on a new risk assessment of triclosan.
The risk assessment was done by VKM’s main committee with contributions from the panel on biological hazards and the panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food and Cosmetics.