If you're considering using an antibacterial
product that contain triclosan please use caution.
In our daily war against harmful bacteria, triclosan has become the weapon of choice. But has our obsession with cleanliness got us using dangerous antibacterial products that promise protection but deliver the opposite?
Triclosan is now being added to soaps, toothpaste, detergents, kitchen utensils, carpets and children’s toys so they can be endowed with “antibacterial" properties.
View this video However, the popularity and proliferation of these products is more the result of successful marketing over solid science. Serious questions are being raised regarding triclosan’s long-term impact on our environment and on our health. Myth #1: Triclosan is an effective germ-killer and will protect your family’s health The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the American Medical Association along with the U.S. Center for Disease Control have all concluded that there is absolutely no germ-killing advantage, nor any additional health benefits from the triclosan found in antibacterial products used for regular personal hygiene or household purposes.
Myth #2: A sanitized home is a healthy home A study of over 200 households revealed that households using antibacterial products didn’t lower their rate of infectious disease but remained the same as the households using regular products. Other studies have suggested that overuse of triclosan can be linked to increased rates of allergies and asthma among children. The theory is that children raised in an overly sterilized environment don’t get the chance to develop immunity through exposure. Myth #3: Triclosan poses no risk to human and environmental health The companies producing triclosan or use it in their products claim this chemical has been used safely and effectively for more than 40 years and that the results of studies have “consistently demonstrated that no health concerns are associated with the recommended uses of triclosan.” However, according to the American Medical Association, despite the proliferation of these products, “the widespread use of antimicrobial agents such as triclosan in consumer products has not been studied extensively…It may be prudent to avoid the use of anti-microbial chemicals in consumer products.”
1. While more research is necessary, recent studies raise serious concerns regarding the potential health risks associated with triclosan use. Among the red flags raised: Mothers who regularly used triclosan had high levels of the chemical in their breast milk.
2. Identified as an endocrine disrupter, it interferes with the hormonal system, affecting reproductive, neurological and immune processes.
3. Can combine with chlorine found in tap water to create low levels of toxic chloroform gas or other dangerous compounds such as 2,4-dichlorophenol, another neuro-toxin
4. Converts into toxic, carcinogenic dioxin upon exposure to UV radiation.
Myth #4: Triclosan is safe for the environment
>Over 95 percent of triclosan comes from consumer products that get washed down the drain. Most wastewater treatment plants aren’t able to remove all traces, so some triclosan does find its way into our water. According to a US Geological Survey study of organic wastewater contaminants in streams, triclosan was one of the most frequently detected compounds. Other studies found there were high enough levels of this chemical to produce an impact on aquatic ecosystems, ranging from developmental disruptions in tadpoles and frogs to reduced diversity in algae species. Additional research is needed to determine just how disruptive triclosan can be on aquatic ecosystems.
Myth #5: It’s perfectly safe.
Although we have been assured about the long-term health and environmental consequences, triclosan has not been studied long enough to know the effects. When asked about antibacterials, Rolf Halden, professor of environmental science at Johns Hopkins University said, “One question we have to ask ourselves: ‘Is it worthwhile to use these chemicals when there’s a very limited benefit according to scientific study, yet more and more reports show the chemical persists in our environment?’ If you look back, we have produced, as a society, a lot of chemicals that were at first thought of as being beneficia, but later on it was shown that they have some serious adverse effects.”Read about healthier alternatives on Clean & Green.
The Author, Melanie Leavitt is an environmental writer based in Montreal.
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