Corona del Mar High School

Ubiquitous chemical Triclosan is not healthy, studies show

Triclosan, a prevalent antiseptic chemical found in a variety of products such as soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, hand sanitizer, deodorant, cutting boards, kitchen knives, and even some children’s toys, is not as helpful as once believed.

The study “The Impact of Bisphenol A and Triclosan on Immune Parameters in the US Population, NHANES 2003-2006″ links triclosan to a drastic increase in allergies, alterations in the endocrine and immune systems, and an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause invincible bacterial infections.

Allergies and Your Gut describes the widespread use of hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps as “an unwelcome epidemic harming individuals’ health and contributing to the rise of drug resistant bacteria, often referred to as super bugs.” If products containing this harmful chemical are not taken off the consumer market, scientists may eventually have no way to rid the body of harmful bacteria.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information states that there are typically 39,000-4,600,000 colony-forming bacterial units on a pair of human hands. Transient bacteria exist on the superficial layers of the hand and can be removed easily with soap and water. Resident bacteria exist in the deep layers of the skin.

This bacterium is much less likely to cause infection. It actually keeps the skin healthy by regulating the pH value and moisture content, so it would actually be harmful to the body to remove the resident bacteria. Many skin care products containing triclosan claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria, meaning that they remove the necessary resident bacteria from the skin. Unfortunately, many humans have the false assumption that all bacteria are bad and need to be removed.

A recent study shows that over 75% of today’s liquid hand soaps contain triclosan or other antiseptic chemicals. Consumer demand for these products has increased over time, and they have become ubiquitous. It has become more difficult for one to find plain soap that does not contain any triclosan.

Senate Environment and Energy Chair John Marty told Capitol Report that scientists have found no significant benefit to using antiseptic products over plain soap. If used correctly, plain soap removes the transient bacteria and leaves the helpful resident bacteria on the skin. Unlike plain soap, antibacterial products are associated with a number of potential risks and health concerns.

Triclosan has been implicated in endocrine alterations. According to Boston Osteopathic Health, triclosan has been found in 100% of urine samples taken from pregnant women in Brooklyn, NY and has shown to cause various birth defects. Additionally, higher levels of triclosan have appeared in the urine of people who have been recently diagnosed with allergies.

Triclosan has been regulated as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1969 and has been shown to survive sewage treatment. It has been linked to the contamination of water and has a negative impact on  aquatic ecosystems.

The continuous use of products containing triclosan has been proven to cause mutations at the target sites on bacteria, making the bacteria immune to antibacterial products.

This may lead to resistance with antibiotics in some forms of bacteria. If triclosan is not removed from the market, these mutations in bacteria may eventually impede on the ability of antibiotics to kill harmful forms of infectious bacteria, causing the formation of superbugs, or antibiotic resistant organisms. Recently, doctors have seen an increase in deadly superbugs spreading across the United States, created through the overuse of household antibacterial products and unnecessary antibiotics.

Tuberculosis, the cause of 1.34 million deaths per year, was once curable through the use of antibiotics, but it has now become resistant to multiple drugs. E. coli, the most common cause of food poisoning and urinary tract infections, has become antibiotic resistant because of the use of antibacterial products to increase the growth and general health of farm animals. Chlamydia and gonorrhea, sexually-transmitted infections that were once easily treatable, have also become antibiotic resistant, just like so many other infections.

If humans were to immediately stop using products containing triclosan, the creation of new superbugs would likely come to a halt, giving scientists a chance to create cures for the already existing superbugs. Banning triclosan in consumer antiseptic products would dramatically reduce allergies and superbugs, thus saving millions of lives.