The U.S. FDA has begun a review of the safety of triclosan. Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical which is found in many consumer products, such as soap and toothpaste.
Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey has called for strict limits on the use of triclosan. "Despite the fact that this chemical is found in everything from soaps to socks," said Markey, "There are many troubling questions about triclosan's effectiveness and potentially harmful effects, especially for children."
One study showed that the chemical can alter hormone regulation. A number of other studies have demonstrated that bacteria exposed to triclosan could potentially become resistant to antibiotics.
Although the US FDA claims it “does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time," there’s actually no shortage of such evidence. So even though the FDA is taking its time to investigate the matter further, you can elect to take proactive measures, right now, to protect yourself, your family, and indeed your community and the environment as a whole.
Best of all, these proactive measures are simple, more effective, and more inexpensive than continuing to use high-priced antibacterial soaps and other personal- and household products containing triclosan.
Are You Disinfecting Your Way to Poor Health?
In an ironic twist, while you’re disinfecting your body and your home to keep your family safe, you may actually be creating far more dangerous problems than those you’re trying to avoid.
For starters, a child raised in an environment doused in disinfectant soaps and cleansers, who is given antibiotics that kill off all of the good and bad bacteria in his gut, and kept away from the natural dirt, germs, viruses and other grime of childhood, is not able to build up natural resistance to disease, and becomes vulnerable to illnesses later in life.
But it doesn’t end there.
One of the most common antibacterials is triclosan, a chlorinated phenolic compound. Triclosan has been found to have both estrogenic and androgenic activity and has been linked to hormone disruption in animals.
One 2006 study found that triclosan induces changes in the thyroid hormone-mediated process of metamorphosis of the North American bullfrog, while a 2007 study demonstrated, for the first time, that triclosan decreases circulating concentrations of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4), in rats.
This effect could be a potential health hazard for each individual that chooses to use triclosan products, but the widespread use of triclosan is also contributing to a much bigger problem that affects everyone.
The Health Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Disease
Triclosan, a potent wide antibacterial and antifungal agent used in a large number of everyday products such as soaps, detergents, toothpaste, deodorants and antiperspirants and other cosmetics, has been used for about 30 years. It can now even be found in clothing and children’s toys.
Many of its defenders use this as a measure of its safety, when in fact there are clear signs that in this time-frame health problems have arisen as a result of its widespread, everyday use.
Sure, people aren’t dropping like flies when using it, so it’s not an immediate threat to your health. But there’s nothing subtle about its effects when viewed from a larger, long-term perspective, which we now have.
Antibiotic-resistant diseases, for example, have sharply increased and now pose a greater threat than modern plagues like HIV/AIDS. The widespread, excessive use of antibacterial products, in addition to the routine use of antibiotics in our food supply, is likely a significant part of the problem.
Even the more conservative American Medical Association (AMA) stated in the year 2000
“Despite their recent proliferation in consumer products, the use of antimicrobial agents such as triclosan has not been studied extensively. No data exist to support their efficacy when used in such products or any need for them, but increasing data now suggest growing acquired resistance to these commonly used antimicrobial agents.
… In light of these findings, there is little evidence to support the use of antimicrobials in consumer products such as topical hand lotions and soaps.”
That was literally TEN YEARS AGO, and nothing has been done to curb its commercial and personal use. If anything, it has proliferated virtually unchecked, and antibiotic-resistant disease has climbed right along with it.
More recently, in 2006, the Emerging Contaminants Workgroup of the Santa Clara Basin Watershed Management Initiative (SCBWMI), issued a white paper on triclosan, where they explain, in layman’s terms, the mechanism by which triclosan may cause resistance:
“Unlike bleach and soap that destroy and dislodge bacteria microbes, triclosan works by interfering with a specific bacterial enzyme. Non-specific antiseptics, such as alcohol, merely break open the cell and, therefore, are not the type of chemical to which bacteria could develop resistance.
On the other hand, triclosan’s mode of action is different from alcohols and peroxide. Triclosan is fat-soluble and easily penetrates the bacterial cell wall. And once inside the cell it attacks an enzyme that is used to produce fatty acids that are vital to cell function.
This mode-of-action could ultimately lead to the development of antibiotic resistance. Through continual use of triclosan, non-bacterial strains would be killed, leaving only the bacteria whose enzyme system has evolved to resist the presence of triclosan.
Some microbiologists fear that the commercial and personal overuse of triclosan could reduce the effectiveness of currently useful antibiotics. For instance, an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis targets the same enzyme system.”
A fairly recent article published in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science states that at as of the end of 2009, two types of drug-resistant tuberculosis have been recognized.
So-called “multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis” (MDR TB) is resistant to at least two of the four first-line drugs, and “extensively drug resistant tuberculosis” (XDR TB) is resistant to three, plus at least one of three additional second-line drugs.
Sadly, a vast majority of antibiotic-resistant diseases like these could have been prevented, as they are in large part man-made – the result of fuzzy logic and dollar signs for eyeballs.
The very idea that we must protect ourselves from any and all bacteria at every turn, by eradicating them from every orifice, inch of skin, every utensil and every surface you ever come in contact with, is fundamentally flawed. And we’re now living with the ramifications of this misguided line of thinking, which, by the way, was not driven to these extremes by health scientists, but rather by corporate interests.
Unfortunately, over the years a majority of people have fallen for the flashy advertising promising safety and better health in a germ infested, dangerous world.
Antibacterial Products Actually LESS EFFECTIVE than Plain Soap and Water…
As the AMA stated ten years ago, there was, and still is, little or no evidence that these antibacterial products outperform the good-old-fashioned techniques like washing with soap and water.
What there is, however, is evidence that the old anti-germ strategies are more effective than modern antibacterials!
In a recent press release, Dr. Sarah Janssen of the Natural Resources Defense Council is quoted as saying:
"It's about time FDA has finally stated its concerns about antibacterial chemicals like triclosan.
The public deserves to know that these so-called antibacterial products are no more effective in preventing infections than regular soap and water and may, in fact, be dangerous to their health in the long run." [Emphasis mine.]
Keeping Yourself and Your Family & Home Clean, Safely
I strongly encourage you to think about ditching all of your chemical disinfectants, including your antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents and bath and kitchen cleansers, in favor of more natural alternatives.
Remember, no study has shown that a vigorous program of home disinfection leads to a reduction of illness in a family. Yet, studies have shown that disinfectants can cause you and your family harm.
For those times when you need to do a bit of cleansing, one of the best non-toxic disinfectants is simple soap and water. You can use this for washing your hands, your body, and for other household cleansing.
The most effective hand-washing technique involves three steps:
- Use warm water
- Work up a good lather all the way up to your wrists for at least 10 or 15 seconds
- Don't forget to get all surfaces including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and an area often overlooked, your fingernails
An all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.
Simply put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.
In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion, making this spray combination more effective at killing these potentially lethal bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner.
The best results came from using one mist right after the other -- it is 10 times more effective than using either spray by itself and more effective than mixing the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in one sprayer.
Sunlight is another powerful disinfectant, and drying your laundry in the sun is one of the best ways to save energy and wind up with fresh, clean linens and clothing.
There’s really no need to expose your family to dangerous chemical disinfectants. As an added bonus aside from the health benefits, using this type of natural homemade cleanser is much less expensive than commercial varieties.