(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2010) Two separate findings that showcase increased exposure and potential for exposure in humans to the toxic chemical triclosan add to the mounting evidence that the non-medical use of this chemical should be banned. Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that levels of triclosan in humans have increased by 50% since 2004. Moreover, a study by the University of Toledo shows that triclosan and triclocarbon, a similar compound, can enter the food chain through use of contaminated water or fertilizer on agricultural crops.
CDC’s updated National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals finds that the 50% increase in levels of triclosan is across all demographics in the U.S. population. Data was collected on the concentration of triclosan in urine. Affluent people and those over the age of 20 have the highest concentrations of triclosan in their urine.
The study released by the University of Toledo, “Uptake of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products by Soybean Plants from Soils Applied with Biosolids and Irrigated with Contaminated Water,” examines the potential for crops to take up contaminants such as triclosan from water or fertilizer. Conventional crops are often fertilized with sewage sludge and irrigated with waste water. Sewage sludge often contains numerous pharmaceutical and personal care compounds. Researchers simulated biosolid application and wastewater irrigation on soybeans. Plant tissues were analyzed for several compounds. Triclosan, triclocarbon, and the pharmaceutical carbamazepine are all found to be readily taken up by the roots and traslocated to other parts of the plants including beans. This study worries health experts because it suggests that people may be exposed to these harmful compounds not just by the products they use, but by unknowingly consuming contaminated food.
Triclosan is one of the most prevalent antibacterial compounds in cleaning and personal care products. Studies have increasingly linked triclosan (and its chemical cousin triclocarban), to a range of adverse health and environmental effects, from skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, bacterial, endocrine disruption and compounded antibiotic resistant, tainted water, and dioxin contamination to destruction of fragile aquatic ecosystems.
In 1972, when triclosan was first introduced to the market, the antibacterial was limited to hospital and health care settings. In recent years, triclosan has been added to hundreds of consumer products ranging from antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, textiles, toys, and other household and personal care products.
Growing concern over the health and environmental effects of the widespread use of triclosan lead Beyond Pesticides to launch a campaign to ban the non-medical uses of the antibacterial compound. In 2009 and 2010, Beyond Pesticides along with Food and Water Watch and over 80 health and environmental groups issued petitions to the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the chemical. Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council launched its own efforts to better regulate triclosan, filing suit against the FDA for failing to issue a final ruling on the ubiquitous chemical.
TAKE ACTION: Join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Avoid products containing triclosan, and encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to support companies that are triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.