Triclosan and Triclocarbon are killers. That’s their job. The antimicrobial chemicals are added to thousands of consumer products – from soap to toothpaste, public changing tables and even shoes – specifically to kill bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, when the soap and other products wash down our drains, Triclosan and Triclocarbon end up in the aquatic environment and even on farms around the country where they keep doing their job, killing things.
Anti-bacterial Soap Poses a Hazard to the Natural Environment
In an article in ScienceDaily this week, Rolf Halden, of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University explained that “the impact these persistent chemicals can have on other life forms in the environment that are not their intended target. The thresholds for killing microbes are much higher than those for other, more fragile life forms, like algae, crustaceans and fish. ‘This explains why residual concentrations of antimicrobials found in aquatic environments are still sufficiently harmful to wipe out the small and sensitive crustaceans, which are critical to the aquatic life cycle and food web,’ Halden says.”
Antimicrobials Build up in People and Animals
And Triclosan and Triclocarbon are not just dangerous to aquatic micro-organisms, including eco-system critical algae and phytoplankton. Scientists have found concentrations of the antimicrobial in the bodies of animals higher up on the food chain, such as dolphins, and even in . . . people. Straight from ScienceDaily:
- “Levels of triclosan in humans have increased by an average of 50 percent since 2004, according to newly updated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Triclosan and Triclocarbon are present in 60 percent of all rivers and streams nationwide and analysis of lake sediments have shown a steady increase in triclosan since the 1960s.
- Antimicrobial chemicals appear in household dust where they may act as allergens, and alarmingly,
- 97 percent of all U.S. women show detectable levels of triclosan in their breast milk.”
And for what? The myth of a germ-free home.
Triclosan and Triclocarbon Are Not Effective Household Germ-killers
These chemicals were developed for use in hospitals, a place where germ-killing is lifesaving. In the 1980s, companies began marketing them to the general consumer.
In 2005, a panel at the Food & Drug Administration voted 11 to 1 that triclosan was no more effective in preventing infections than regular soap and water. Since all soap and the process of hand washing itself is anti-bacterial, the chemical is not necessary.
Excessive Use of Antimicrobials Could Lead to Super-Germs
“[T]he accumulation of these antimicrobials in the environment is exerting selective pressure on microorganisms exposed to them, thereby increasing the likelihood that a super-bug, resistant to the very antimicrobials developed to kill them, will emerge — with potentially dire consequences for human health,” writes ScienceDaily.
What You Can Do to Stop Triclosan and Triclocarbon
- Don’t use them. Check out Food & Water Watch’s fact sheets for tips on avoiding Triclosan and Triclocarbon.
- Support a ban on the use of Triclosan and Triclocarbon for non-medical purposes.