(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2010) A University of Florida, Gainesville study reports that the antibacterial pesticide triclosan, found in toothpaste, soaps, toys and clothing, interferes with estrogen metabolism in women and can disrupt a vital enzyme during pregnancy. These recent findings raise concerns about triclosan’s possible effects on fetal growth and development. This study is just one of an emerging body of science which supports triclosan as an endocrine disruptor and should be eliminated from consumer products.
The study, which was published in the November print issue of the journal Environment International, examines the effect of triclosan on a placental enzyme, called estrogen sulfotransferase. Triclosan is known to inhibit sulfonation of phenolic xenobiotics and is structurally related to other known inhibitors of estrogen sulfotransferase, such as polychlorobiphenylols (PCBs). During pregnancy, the placenta is an important source of estrogen, which is needed for normal fetal development and successful parturition (childbirth), and estrogen sulfotransferase is thought to play an important role in regulation of estrogen availability. Estrogen is a key hormone during pregnancy and controls the way a baby develops many key organs like the brain. Triclosan was found to be a very potent inhibitor of both estradiol and estrone sulfonation. The high potency of triclosan as an inhibitor of estrogen sulfotransferase activity raises concern about its possible effects on the ability of the placenta to supply estrogen to the fetus.
Aside from the role it plays in the fetus, estrogen also affects how much oxygen the baby gets from the mother. Estrogen is also involved in signaling the uterus to contract during labor. But maintaining the right levels of the hormone during pregnancy is a delicate balance. Too much estrogen could send the mother’s body into premature labor. Too little could hinder the flow of oxygen. Both instances could affect how the baby’s brain develops. This is one of the reasons scientists are concerned about the pregnancy-related effects of chemicals such as triclosan.
According to Margaret James, PhD, University of Florida medicinal chemist and lead author of the study, “We suspect that makes this substance dangerous in pregnancy if enough of the triclosan gets through to the placenta to affect the enzyme. We know for sure it is a very potent inhibitor. What we don’t know is the kinds of levels you would have to be exposed to see a negative effect. If this process is interrupted then we wonder if that might affect how the fetus develops. There is a chance it may not produce some of the proteins that it should during development. Therefore there might be a chance at either growth retardation or something worse happening to the fetus.”
“My recommendation would be if someone is pregnant that the best thing would be to avoid plaque reducing toothpastes that has Triclosan in it and also to avoid antibacterial soaps and other products that have Triclosan in it,” Dr. James also added.
Researchers are also concerned that some people cannot get rid of all the triclosan from their bodies once exposed. Research shows that just a small amount of triclosan can be potentially damaging to a developing baby. Triclosan has already been found in breast milk, urine and umbilical cord blood. The Centers for Disease Control in an updated National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals notes that triclosan levels in people increased by over 41% between just the years 2004 and 2006. It is the antimicrobial agent in hundreds of consumer products currently on the market including hand sanitizers, toys, clothing and kitchen utensils. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and is also shown to alter thyroid function. Triclosan is one of the most detected chemicals in U.S. waterways; about 96 percent of triclosan from consumer products is disposed of in residential drains. This leads to large loads of the chemical in water entering wastewater treatment plants, which are incompletely removed during the wastewater treatment process. When treated wastewater is released to the environment, sunlight converts some of the triclosan (and related compounds) into various forms of dioxins.
Based on these numerous human and environmental health concerns, Beyond Pesticides in partnership with Food and Water Watch and 78 other groups, submitted petitions to both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring that they ban all non-medically prescribed triclosan uses on the basis that those uses violate several federal statutes. FDA recently stated that “existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients.” FDA announced that it plans to review data concerning triclosan. EPA maintains that the agency does not currently plan to reevaluate its regulations surrounding the use of triclosan until 2013. [Triclosan is jointly regulated by FDA and EPA.]
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 go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, institution or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. For more information about triclosan and the campaign, visit our Triclosan program page.
Source: University of Florida News