Tags: antibacterial | chemical | risk | triclosan

Antibacterial Soap Chemical may Pose Risks

Wednesday, 15 August 2012 10:52 AM

Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical commonly used in hand soaps and personal-care products, has been found to cause unexpected health problems in laboratory tests involving animals, new research has found.
The study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicated the ubiquitous chemical hinders muscle contractions at the cellular level, slows swimming in fish and reduces muscular strength in mice.
Researchers at the University of California-Davis and the University of Colorado who conducted the study called the findings “surprising” and suggested triclosan may pose previously unknown human health risks.
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"Triclosan is found in virtually everyone's home and is pervasive in the environment," said lead investigator Isaac Pessah, chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences in the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "These findings provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health."
Triclosan is widely used in antibacterial hand soaps, deodorants, mouthwashes, toothpaste, bedding, clothes, carpets, toys, trash bags and other products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated more than 1 million pounds of triclosan are produced annually in the United States, and it is found in waterways and marine life ranging from algae to fish to dolphins, as well as in human urine, blood and breast milk.
Although it was first developed to prevent bacterial infections in hospitals, its use has become widespread. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other than its use in some toothpastes to prevent gingivitis, there is no evidence that triclosan provides health benefits or that antibacterial soaps are more effective than regular soap and water. Experts are also concerned overuse of antibacterial products may promote resistant bacterial strains.
The FDA and EPA are currently conducting new risk assessments of the chemical. The UC-Davis researchers said their findings suggest the potential health risks call for greater regulatory restrictions.
"Regulatory agencies should definitely be reconsidering whether [triclosan] should be allowed in consumer products," said Pessah.
For the new study, UC-Davis investigators performed several experiments to determine the effects of triclosan on muscle activity, using doses similar to those that people and animals are exposed to in daily life.
The "test tube" experiments found triclosan impaired the ability of heart muscle cells and skeletal muscle fibers to contract. They also found the chemical impairs heart and skeletal muscle “contractility” in tests of laboratory mice and reduced their overall “grip strength.” In addition, they found minnows exposed to triclosan for seven days had significantly reduced swimming activity.
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"We were surprised by the large degree to which muscle activity was impaired in very different organisms and in both cardiac and skeletal muscle," said researcher Bruce Hammock, of the UC-Davis Department of Entomology. "You can imagine in animals that depend so totally on muscle activity that even a 10-percent reduction in ability can make a real difference in their survival."
Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC-Davis, added: "The effects of triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic. Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models."
Chiamvimonvat cautioned that translating results from animal studies to humans is a large step and would require further study. But the fact that the effects were so striking in several animal models under different experimental conditions provides strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure.
"In patients with underlying heart failure, triclosan could have significant effects because it is so widely used," Chiamvimonvat said. "However, without additional studies, it would be difficult for a physician to distinguish between natural disease progression and an environmental factor such as triclosan."
The UC-Davis research team has previously linked triclosan to other potentially harmful health effects, including disruption of reproductive hormone activity and of cell signaling in the brain.
The new research was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.

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An antibacterial chemical used in soaps and personal-care products has been tied to health problems.
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 10:52 AM
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