Three-quarters of all children tested positive for Triclosan.
Washing your hands is good, right? With the availability of more and more antibacterial products on the market, we should be healthier and safer, right?
Stuart B. Levy of the Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, says the answer is no.
“The recent entry of products containing antibacterial agents into healthy households has escalated from a few dozen products in the mid-1990s to more than 700 today,” says Levy. “Scientists are concerned that the antibacterial agents will select bacteria resistant to them and cross-resistant to antibiotics.”
Additionally, many antibacterial agents actually alter a person's microflora, which affects the normal maturation of the T helper cell response of the immune system. Specifically, says Levy, “this change could lead to a greater chance of allergies in children. As with antibiotics, prudent use of these products is urged. Their designated purpose is to protect vulnerable patients.”
According to the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Triclosan is a chemical with antibacterial properties that has been used widely in many
consumer products for the past 20 years. It is an ingredient in many detergents, soaps, skin cleansers, deodorants, lotions, creams, toothpastes, and dishwashing liquids. Triclosan is also added to various plastics and to textiles such as underwear and socks.
How are people exposed to Triclosan?
People are most likely exposed to Triclosan by absorption through the skin or through the lining (the mucosa) of the mouth.
How does Triclosan affect people’s health?
The direct health effects of triclosan in people are not completely understood. We do know that triclosan reacts with the free chlorine in tap water to produce other compounds, like 2,4-dichlorophenol. Most of these intermediates convert into dioxins upon exposure to UV radiation. This is dangerous because dioxins are extremely toxic and are very potent endocrine disruptors.
A 2006 study showed that low doses of triclosan act as an endocrine disruptor in the North American bullfrog. The conclusion is that triclosan blocks the metabolism of thyroid hormone because it chemically mimics thyroid hormone, and binds to the hormone receptor sites, blocking them, so that normal hormones cannot be utilized by the body.
However, further research is needed to determine whether exposure to this chemical, especially at levels found in the U.S. population, actually affects human health.
What are the levels of triclosan in the U.S. population?
CDC scientists tested the urine of 2,517 people ages six years and older who took part in a nationwide survey, called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), during 2003-2004.
• Triclosan was detected in the urine of nearly 75 percent of the people tested.
• Triclosan levels were greater among people in the highest income bracket than among those in either the middle or lower income brackets.
• cientists found no differences in Triclosan levels either by sex or race/ethnicity.