August 15, 2012 — Triclosan, a common chemical found in many household products, has been shown to restrict muscle contractions in mice and fish. Triclosan is one of the primary ingredients in antibacterial soap, body washes, toothpaste, and mouthwash. It is also found in clothing, kitchenware, furniture, and toys. The study raises concerns about the impact of triclosan on human health and the environment.
The researchers first tested the chemical on heart muscle fibers and skeletal muscle fibers. Electrical stimulation normally causes the muscle fibers to contract. When triclosan was introduced, the electrical channels were blocked, and the muscle movement was impaired.
The researchers also conducted tests where mice were injected with triclosan. Some of the rats died immediately from cardiac arrest. When other mice were given lower doses, they had up to a 25% reduction in heart function within 20 minutes of exposure to the chemical.
Authors of the study said, “Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potential cardiac depressant in our models.”
Researchers have also warned that two active ingredients in antibacterial soaps (triclosan and triclocarban) are under scrutiny by the FDA and the EPA due to environmental concerns. Once in the environment, the compounds persist for several decades and degrade very slowly. They are among the top ten pharmaceuticals found in drinking water and the environment — mostly downstream of sewers and waste-water treatment facilities.
Although the long-term effects of these compounds are not well-known, the chemicals are readily absorbed through the skin, and there is growing evidence that they may adversely impact health. The compound is increasingly found in breast milk, blood plasma, and urine.
The American Cleaning Institute (ACI), a trade group that represents the interests of manufacturers and suppliers of anti-bacterial products, said that media reports are distorted. Richard Sedlak, ACI executive vice president, said, “Antibacterial products containing the germ-killing ingredient triclosan remain safe and effective for everyday use.”
The U.S. Food and drug Administration (FDA) is also aware that there are concerns about the safety of triclosan. They have published a consumer guide that assures people that triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. Although animal studies have shown that triclosan can alter hormone function, but these effects do not necessarily translate to humans. The FDA is currently reviewing the safety of this ingredient.
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