By Richard Mesquita, AquaMD
In case you missed it, a study by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University showed that washing dishes by hand and using an antibacterial dishwashing liquid soap, has unintended consequences. Specifically, the chemical triclosan contained in the soap was found to interact with chlorinated water to produce significant amounts of chloroform.
Chloroform is part of a family of four disinfection byproducts known as Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). When water companies add chlorine to water -- to kill or prevent bacteria from growing in it -- TTHMs interact with organic matter in their distribution system to cause disinfection byproducts.
Typically, TTHMs enter your body thru inhalation. So if you are washing dishes by hand, you are naturally inhaling water vapors that carry TTHMs. This study found the amount of chloroform in water increased significantly when it came in contact with antibacterial soap containing Triclosan.
And, if that wasn't enough of a problem, it turns out triclosan has its own concerns.
What is Triclosan?
Triclosan is a chemical that's been used since the 1960s because of its antibacterial properties. It's an active ingredient in many household products:
- Dishwashing liquids
- Anti-microbial creams
- Body washes
It's also added to plastics, polymers and textiles to give them antibacterial properties.
A little-known fact about triclosan: When this chemical comes in contact with your skin, it stays there for many hours. That's far different than plain soap: Once it's rinsed off, it really is off.
Triclosan is a type of chlorophenol. Chemicals containing chlorophenol are known as powerful pesticides, which means they are very good at killing things like insects and small rodents. That's why triclosan is added to antibacterial soap, detergents and other products: To kill any bacteria they come in contact with.
Unfortunately, common sense tells you, when you add chemicals designed to kill things to consumer products, you are going to have trouble. And in fact, many consumers complain about skin rashes and other irritations when using products containing chlorophenols. Chlorophenols are linked to cancers too.
It's also believed small amounts of dioxins and dibenzofurans (very toxic substances) can be created when triclosan is manufactured. If these harmful substances are created, they are also added along with triclosan to all those consumer products I listed earlier.
Since triclosan is found in such a wide range of consumer goods, it has become very prevalent in our rivers and streams, as well as the aquatic life in our waterways. In fact, triclosan has also been found in mother's breast milk, likely the result of extensive exposure to products containing it.
What Can You do to Protect Yourself?
Please don't stop washing dishes. Just switch to non-toxic soaps. Look for ones made from natural ingredients (those found in nature). Avoid soaps with man-made additives, such as triclosan, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, DEA (diethanolomine), Isopropyl Alcohol, artificial fragrances, FD&C Colors (colors approved for food, drugs and cosmetics) and Propylene Glycol.
The same thing applies to cleaners you use in and around your home. There are plenty of natural alternatives to choose from to protect your health.
Find out what levels of TTHMs or other contaminants are in your water. Then, get the right purification system to treat your specific problem. As the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University proved, if your water is contaminated, you are affected by it even when you don't drink it. You could still be using contaminated water to shower, bathe, wash your hands or clean your clothes.