Triclosan Levels in Humans Jumps 40% in Two Years

Triclosan, that sneaky little pesticide in the antimicrobial soaps you’ll find everywhere, might not be so benign after all. Recently released data from the CDC show that during a two year period, 2003 -2004 and 2005 – 2006, the average levels of triclosan found in humans rose about 40%. But the effect of it on humans is still “unknown”.

That doesn’t sound like a good thing. In my mind, why would you use a soap that might keep you from ingesting bacteria, but one that might also have cumulative and long-term effects on your body?

Back in April, there was an announcement that:

“Over the next year, the FDA will look at evidence that triclosan might affect the development of the nervous system, in which thyroid hormones play a key role, or the reproductive system. One recent study showed that triclosan lowers levels of thyroid hormones in rats, while a 2008 report found that it boosts the effects of oestrogen and testosterone.”

According the information about triclosan available at the EPA website,

“Triclosan (2,4,4’ –trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether) is a chlorinated aromatic compound. Its functional groups include both phenols and ethers. It is used as a synthetic broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Triclosan was first registered as a pesticide in 1969.”

And the CDC site says:

“How Triclosan Affects People’s Health: The human health effects from exposure to low environmental levels of triclosan are unknown. Skin products containing triclosan rarely have caused irritation. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to triclosan.”

So we really don’t know what this stuff does, or will do to us or our growing children? And it’s sold over the counter, everywhere? Someone tell me why that makes sense, please.

The CDC site also goes on to say that “Triclosan was detected in the urine of nearly 75% of the people tested.”

And now the NRDC references a study showing that: “triclosan and triclocarban can enter the food chain through of the use of contaminated wastewater or fertilizer in agricultural fields.” The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that in soybeans grown with treated wastewater and the so-called “biosolids” (sewage sludge), “Carbamazepine, triclosan, and triclocarban were found to be concentrated in root tissues and translocated into above ground parts including beans.”

Dr. Sarah Janssen, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, had this to say about antimicrobial soaps and their ingredients:

“The widespread and unregulated use of antimicrobials such as triclosan and triclocarban must end. In just two years, human exposure to triclosan has dramatically risen and now there is evidence that our food supply could also be contaminated with these chemicals. With no proven benefit and many red flags raised for harmful health impacts, the use of these so-called anti-microbials is an unnecessary and stupid use of toxic chemicals.”

But you can buy this stuff everywhere, and people rationalize it by saying “But the germs! We need to kill germs. We need to disinfect things.”

What. Ever.

There are certain situations and health issues in which disinfecting things is necessary. But for most of us? We just need to get over ourselves. We’re not meant to live in a sterile world, in fact couldn’t live in a sterile world, and our preoccupation with germs has led us astray, in my opinion. People who have healthy immune systems are not as susceptible to ‘germs and bugs’, and our body can handle them just fine. We don’t need to sterilize our world.

So do what you will, but I’m not exposing my family to pesticides that accumulate in the body, especially when the FDA admits that “Antibacterial soap is no better than plain soap.

And if you dare to dip into the CDC’s Exposure report, here’s the link: National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

2 thoughts on “Triclosan Levels in Humans Jumps 40% in Two Years

  • I am not down with all of these antimicrobial and antibacterial products. Whatever happened to just washing your hands with soap? We use Dr. Bronner’s all-in-one in our house (just mix with some water).

    My wife works in health care and is subject to these hand sanitizers all the time. Doctors and nurses need to use this stuff when there is no easy and quick access to hand-washing (there is often not enough time in between patients to run to a restroom to wash hands). She hates the stuff. The alcohol content alone flares up eczema on her hand. My wife also agrees that hand washing is enough to clean hands of potential germs.

    We use BabyGanics sanitizer ever since we had our daughter. There is no triclosan in this. This, again, is in lieu of being able to wash hands. I think a major problem is that people carry around purell, etc. as a substitute even when they could wash their hands. They act as if it is better than washing hands. It is similar to the over use of antibiotics. Rather than working to build strong immune systems and take a holistic approach to health, people figure not to change their lifestyle and habits and just take antibiotics if some infection comes up.

    I have come around on the germ thing though. I was much looser on the subject than my wife. Her experience in health care has actually made me more concerned about germs…Not overly concerned. I am just more aware of washing my hands, especially prior to cooking or eating, etc. We are fairly health-conscious people, so I feel our immune systems are strong. But with our now 6 month old daughter in tow, we are very aware of her less developed immune system. Breast feeding is definitely a boost. But we are careful to make sure that our daughter’s hands remain “germ-free” as they always end up in her mouth….


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