Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that’s found in antibacterial soap as well as mouthwash, toothpaste, toys, and lunch bags. It’s also found at higher levels in the blood of allergic kids, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, solidifying the fact that you really need to avoid the stuff — if you aren’t already.
According to the research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, “Children with the highest urine levels of triclosan had nearly twice the risk of environmental allergies as children with the lowest urinary concentrations…Food allergy risk was more than twice as pronounced in children with the highest levels of urinary triclosan as in children with the lowest triclosan levels.”
From the press release: “This finding highlights the antimicrobial properties of these agents as a probable driving force behind their effect on the immune system,” explained senior investigator Corinne Keet, M.D., M.S., an allergist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
Added lead investigator Jessica Savage, M.D., M.H.S., an allergy and immunology fellow at Hopkins: “The link between allergy risk and antimicrobial exposure suggests that these agents may disrupt the delicate balance between beneficial and bad bacteria in the body and lead to immune system dysregulation, which in turn raises the risk of allergies.”
Researchers say the triclosan itself doesn’t cause allergies. Instead they think the triclosan affects immune system development. Either way, it’s something to be aware of when you’re out there buying personal care products. For instance, if you’re looking for liquid soap, go for the one that does not have triclosan listed as an ingredient. Even better, why not stick to plain old bar soap? You’ll avoid triclosan and help the environment a bit since you’re not adding another plastic bottle to a landfill or recycle stream.
Making a better choice when buying toothpaste, I think, is even more important. After all, it’s in our mouths and goes directly into our bodies even if we only swallow a little every day. Here’s the thing: You may not even be aware that your toothpaste contains triclosan, since it isn’t listed on the front of the box. You’ll have to read the label. It will be listed in the active ingredients next to or below the fluoride. Like this:
The manufacturers of toothpaste and soap and lunchboxes say that they add triclosan as a way to help people. However, as the evidence keeps mounting against the stuff (check out some of my old triclosan columns here and here and here), it’s pretty obvious that it’s hurting us and our environment far more than it’s helping us.
Do you think about Triclosan? Are you worried about exposure? What other places have you eliminated the chemical? I’d like to know.