Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Easy Being Green: Ban the Triclosan!

“Antibacterial” sounds like a fabulous thing, I mean, who likes bacteria? 

We are always taught to wash our hands and sanitize everything. But alas, while in general bacteria is not good, some antibacterial items, are even worse. 

Alcohol based sanitizers and antibacterials (like Purell or alcohol wipes) are fine (in moderation) but many products contain Triclosan, also known as Microban, is an antibacterial associated with endocrine disruption, allergies, and is a possible carcinogen. It is also associated with bacterial resistance to antibacterials.

Triclosan is commonly found in:
  • Hand Soap  (I just noticed some Bath and Body Works soap my sister gave me contains it...) 
  • Dish Soap
  • Mouth Wash
  • Toothpaste
  • and many other “antibacterial” labeled items including cutting boards, garden houses, kitchen knives, and toys.

Soo what does that all mean? 

Endocrine Disruption: 
  • The endocrine system is the hormone system. When the endocrine system is disrupted it can lead to:
    • Reproduction problems/ Infertility 
    • Changes in sexual development (early puberty, malformation of the brain associated with sex) 
    • Impaired immune function 
    • Diabetes 
    • Cancer 
    • Weight problems/ obesity 
  • Most of these issues are heightened if the exposure is to a pregnant woman, or woman who will soon become pregnant, a fetus, or a child who is still developing.  However, more research is discovering that exposure to adults may also lead to some of these issues, namely diabetes and obesity. 

  • In relation to the endocrine disruption, especially during development, chemicals, such as triclosan can disrupt how cells and genes are formed. This can lead to cells that are more prone to cancer, and to a disturbance in the cell cycle - as in more proliferation (getting bigger), less differentiation (dividing) and less apoptosis (normal cell death) which can lead to the formation of a tumor. 
  • Secondly - triclosan can combine with free chlorine in water which can form dioxins, a known carcinogen. So, even if you aren't worried about your exposure, know that by using anti-bacterials that contain triclosan you are releasing triclosan into the general water supply to create dioxins. 
  • Studies show that children exposed to triclosan are more likely to develop allergies. How this occurs is still unclear. It may be related to over exposure of antibacterials in general effects that immune system, or it may be another mechanism that is currently unclear. 
  • Some people are also just allergic to triclosan itself. 
Bacteria Resistance: 
  • You've probably heard of bacteria resistance in some form or another. It is often cited as a reason to not overdo it with antibiotics. It can also occur when bacteria are exposed to an antibacterial agent (such as triclosan). The bacteria learn what it is up against, and it can start to change to become stronger and resistant to our antibacterials and medicines. This leads to 'super bacterial' that we have no means of defending ourselves against. 

Here is some dish soap that had been in our house when we moved in.  Ironically, we also have the same dish soap in the staff kitchen area in the hospital.

It contains the dreaded ingredient - clearly labeled! (Ok, it may not appear that clear in the picture, but I did the best I could... nonetheless, if you looked at the bottle you could read the active ingredients and it would tell you.) 

For my alternative to the toxic dish soap - I picked up Planet brand instead: 

It is Triclosan Free, 100% Biodegradable, hypoallergenic, not tested on animals and cleans pretty darn well!  Any other non-triclosan/ non-anti-bacterial product should help you out at least in regards to avoiding triclosan. 

Alternatives: Plain old soap and water work just as well as triclosan laced products. In regards to the other products such as cutting boards, utensils and toys, just wash them with soap and hot water. There is no real benefit to the antibacterial properties, especially when you consider the harmful consequences of triclosan exposure. 

So what to do: 
  • Avoid purchasing or using items labeled as antibacterial and containing triclosan. 
  • Use other safe ways of disinfecting. Wash your hands in hot water with soap for at least 30 seconds. 
  • Beware of items not labeled as 'antibacterial' that may still contain triclosan. Always read the labels! 

Wishing you a very green happy holidays!

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