(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2014) A study has found that increased human exposure to triclosan is correlated with elevated numbers of individuals carrying staph bacteria. This research adds to the growing scientific literature that questions the safety and efficacy of triclosan, an anti-bacterial chemical widely used in consumer products.
The study, Triclosan Promotes Staphylococcus aureus Nasal Colonization, authored by Blaise R. Boles, PhD and published in mBio, found that nasal secretions that contain triclosan is linked to higher rates of the variety of staph bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus. Dr. Boles and colleagues found that 64 percent of individuals with detectable levels of triclosan in nostrils carried staph compared to 27 percent of individuals that had little or no antimicrobial compounds carrying staph. The researchers also found that triclosan also promotes the binding of staph to human proteins making them “stickier.” This allows staph to hunker down in the nose, giving it an advantage over other nose-dwelling microbes. Triclosan also allows staph to better attach to other surfaces such as glass and plastic.
Beyond the human tests, researchers found a similar link in rat experiments. They used a breed of rat known to take about a week to shake off a mild nasal invasion by staph. When the researchers gave the rats triclosan-laced food and stuck a small batch of staph in the rodents’ noses, the rats could not get rid of the microbes. According to a Science New article, microbiologist Hanne Ingmer of the University of Copenhagen says the finding has troubling implications for public health. Triclosan, she points out, could provide footholds for the most worrisome forms of staph, such as methicillin-resistant MRSA.
Triclosan, commercially introduced in 1972, is a ubiquitous antibacterial chemical found in an increasing variety of household products. While many major manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble, have already announced their intent to eliminate triclosan from their products, the chemical still remains widespread in a number of consumer goods. Though Colgate Palmolive announced in 2011 that it would reformulate many of its products to take out triclosan, it has refused to change the formula for its mainstay Colgate Total brand toothpaste.
Due to these growing concerns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule last December that requires manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. This announcement, though long-delayed, represents a positive step toward reining in the unnecessary use of antibacterial chemicals.Toothpaste containing triclosan is not subject to this rulemaking as FDA has indicated that the chemical is effective as an anti-gingivitis ingredient.
This study adds to the growing literature that questions the safety and efficacy of triclosan. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It has also been shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human milk. The CDC estimates that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004.Studies even show that triclosan can react with the chlorine in tap water to form chloroform at rates of exposure considered significant by the authors of the research.
As new science emerges, Beyond Pesticides continues to urge concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan. Since the rule will not go into effect until at least 2016, make sure to continue to read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. You can also encourage your local schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. See Beyond Pesticides Triclosan webpage for additional information. Source: Science News All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.