Triclosan when used as a plastic additive under the trade name Microban controls microbial growth and odors within cutting boards, shower curtains, and other impregnated surfaces, but does not offer the user any significant protection from infectious microbes on the exterior surfaces of those items.
However, according to Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr., Ph.D., one of the Housekeeping Channel's technical advisors, in his book, The Secret Life of Germs: "a germicide-impregnated cutting board would be an asset in any kitchen. Even a well-cleaned board will likely harbor germs in the fissures that a knife cuts in its surface. A germicide works to eliminate those germs in between uses."
According to the manufacturer's Web site:
"Microban® antimicrobial product protection is engineered to protect products from bacteria, mold and in some cases algae that can cause stains, odors and product deterioration. Microban protection is not designed to protect users from disease causing microorganisms."
So, if you buy a cutting board that includes Microban, just remember to clean and disinfect it thoroughly like any other cutting board. While the additive will help preserve the cutting board and reduce bacterial odors there, it will not keep the surface (above any fissures) from becoming a source of contagion.
Triclosan is also being used to treat vacuum cleaner bags, and offers a similar benefit there. In other words, it can inhibit the growth of microbes within the filter media, thereby reducing bacterial odor, but does not prevent the vacuum bag from passing along live microbes too small to be trapped by the filter media.
Editor's Note: Triclosan has recently come under scrutiny by the US FDA and some groups are calling for a ban of the antimicrobial product citing lingering toxicity and other concerns.
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