I’ve written here before about some of the risks posed by the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and other antibacterial substances. One antibacterial and antifungal compound that is very widely used in a variety of household products, including soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorants, and cleaning supplies, is triclosan. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is suspected of being able to induce antibiotic resistance in some types of bacteria; it is also suspected of being an endocrine disruptor, based on some results from animal experiments. Although the levels found in consumer products are relatively much smaller for adult users, there is some concern that exposing small children to the substance may cause problems.
The New Scientist has a report of some new data on human exposure to environmental chemicals, released in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. The data were based on blood and urine samples from approximately 2,400 subjects in a survey which the CDC conducts every two years; the most recent survey was conducted in 2005-2006. There is a lot of data there, but the numbers on triclosan are notable:
The average amount of triclosan, a chemical added to soaps and toothpastes to kill fungi and bacteria, had increased from 13 micrograms per litre of urine in 2003-4 to 18.5 μg/l in 2005-6.
This is quite a considerable increase in only two years’ time.
The Food & Drug Administration is currently conducting a safety review of triclosan; it is expected to be finished in April of 2011.