Science News

Triclosan Might Be Ok After All

An ingredient used in many antibacterial products might not be as harmful to humans or the environment as some had feared.  This is the conclusion from a new research study funded by the U.S National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Julie Parsonnet who is the primary author of the study was quoted as saying:

There are a lot of people who are fearful of triclosan, but we didn’t find anything to support that concern in our study

The study found that triclosan did not alter the microbiome of the gut or mouth nor did it affect the endocrine system in any significant way.

The product was introduced in the 1960s and is/was used in a large number of cleaners and personal hygiene products.  In 2008 the chemical was so ubiquitous that it was present in the urine of 75% of human samples tested.

Recently scientists have become concerned that its widespread use could contribute to antimicrobial resistance and could have negative effects on the human microbiome.  At the same time researchers have started to appreciate the extensive effects that a person’s microbiome has on their health and have linked a wide variety of ails to changes in it.  Thus, the concern has been that triclosan might be causing many health issues by stirring negative changes in the microbiome.

For the study, investigators  randomly assigned 13 people, all relatively healthy, to use common household and personal care products with and without triclosan.  It was found that even though the chemical was present in significant amounts in the participants urine there were little over-all changes to the endocrine system.  The study authors said that the endocrine system influences every cell and organ in the body as well the the microbiome in the mouth and gut.

The study authors did go on to state that while they did find some changes in organisms but there was “no major blow to the oral or gut flora”.

In 2013 the U.S. FDA proposed that manufacturers should prove that triclosan based products is safer and more effective than products without it.  The result since then has been that most manufacturers have stopped adding it to their products though its still found in some toothpaste and cleaning products used in hospitals.

The study results were published in the online site mSphere – a journal published by the American Society for Microbiology.


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