Antibacterials and microbiome: SHOW SAFETY or REMOVE per FDA

Antibacterials and microbiome — real cause for concern:

FINALLY, the FDA has given soap manufacturers one year to demonstrate that antibacterial additives are safe or to take them out of the products altogether.  This is great considering it has been found in the urine of 3/4 of Americans, and it is detected in 97% of breast-milk tested.  The FDA issued the proposed rule on Dec. 16, 2013 requiring manufacturers to provide more “substantial data” to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps. The proposed rule is limited however and covers only those consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water
  From EWG’s “Guide to Triclosan:
“Triclosan is nearly ubiquitous in liquid hand soap and dishwashing detergent, but those aren’t the only products it’s in. Triclosan is also a common ingredient in toothpaste, facewash, deodorant, a host of personal care products, and even mattresses, toothbrushes and shoe insoles.”  
“Triclosan is linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Wastewater treatment does not remove all of the chemical, which means it ends up in our lakes, rivers and water sources.”
“Triclosan is absorbed through the skin and has been detected in human breast milk, blood and urine samples. In laboratory studies, it has been linked to hormone disruption. The chemical is also persistent in the environment and toxic to aquatic life.”

This report by antimicrobial expert Rolf Halden* documents triclosan concerns:

  1. The CDC has found triclosan in the urine of 3/4 of Americans.  They note that triclosan is extensively used in consumer products including: personal care products, textiles, and plastic kitchenware.  So… the FDA ruling doesn’t even apply to many products containing triclosan!
  2. An industry-funded study detected TCS in the breast milk of 97% of U.S. women tested. The most common are triclocarban (TCC) and triclosan (TCS).
  3. Showering for 15 minutes using antibacterial soap results in blood concentrations that may cause local inhibition of enzyme soluble epoxide hydrolase and this significance: “sEH appears to be involved in modulating inflammation, pain pathways, pulmonary function, hypertension, and diabetes.
  4. Toothpaste containing TCS is a significant source of ingestion.
Additional Concerns:

  1. EWG 2014 updates report possible impact to thyroid and BMI“Data from animal studies suggest that the risks of triclosan exposure are likely higher for young children and adolescents compared to adults. For example, triclosan exposure significantly decreased thyroid hormone T3 and T4 concentrations in the male juvenile rats (Zorrilla 2008). In young female rats, triclosan affected estrogen-mediated responses and suppressed thyroid hormone T4 (Stoker 2010). ““Changes in thyroid hormones were also observed in a cross-sectional analysis of data on urinary biomarkers of triclosan exposure and serum thyroid measures obtained as part of the 2007–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (Koepper 2013). Another study based on the NHANES data found that higher levels of urinary triclosan were associated with greater body mass index (Lankester 2013). The study authors hypothesizes that triclosan could increase the body weight by interfering with the thyroid hormone function and by changing the gut flora composition (Lankester 2013).”
  2. Antimicrobials added to food and water are adding to the “Total Body Toxin Load”, and the EPA and FDA are collaborating in evaluating this impact to health.  Interesting excerpts from EPA’s FAQ page (preliminary assessment) includes:
    • Does the use of triclosan cause antibiotic resistance?  A number of studies have indicated a relationship between triclosan and the development of bacterial resistance but a causal relationship has not yet been established. Additional test data is needed to fully assess the potential for the development of bacterial resistance and to provide information regarding potential risk. The Agency is monitoring the issue of antimicrobial resistance and its links to antibiotic resistance through review of current literature
    • What are the major uses of triclosan?  Triclosan is primarily used in FDA-regulated applications (soaps, toothpaste, detergents, medical devices, etc.). However, there are several EPA-registered uses of triclosan when used as a material preservative in mattresses, plastics, textiles (footwear and clothing), toys and adhesives. Triclosan also has an HVAC coil application which is limited to commercial applicators only.
    • When will the Agency be re-evaluating triclosan again?  The Agency is aware that research is ongoing regarding triclosan. The outcomes of this further research may require the Agency to revisit this decision in the future. Further, given the rapidly developing scientific database for this chemical, the Agency accelerated the schedule for the registration review process for triclosan by beginning the process in 2013.
  1. Many personal care antibacterial products are also adding to the “Total Body Toxin Load” (see this post to reduce that load), is persistent in the environment, and toxic to aquatic life.
  2. And, I just want to clarify… in 2014, they still are very much at the “What happens to a rat?” stage of evaluating the effects of triclosan exposure as the agencies will need the technical studies to support triclosan removal from a billion dollar industry.  Just to note a few ongoing studies: check out the 2014 work of antimicrobial  expert Rolf U. Halden*, or  this 2013 Minnesota MDH (Dept. of Health) Sheet which lists many ongoing animal studies looking at endocrine, immunity, neurotoxicity, to reproductive toxicity.  How does this really work using Colgate as an example?  Colgate Total contains triclosan and this statement tries to convince the public that Colgate’s studies prove safety despite the WHO and FDA concerns.  I have been there and done it (forcing billion dollar industry to do the right thing relative to public health safety), see Contact Lens Recall 2007.  They’ll need the studies.  Nuff said.
Why care about antibacterial Total Body Toxin Loads?

These topical chemicals alter and destroy your protective skin bacterial microbiome and are absorbed.  Skin is our largest organ; adults carry some 8 pounds and 22 square feet of it.   This study detected blood serum levels of triclosan due to showering effectively answering the question, “Do we really absorb topicals?”  Yes, we do; please read labels; many say if you can’t eat the ingredient you don’t want to put it on your skin.

EWG Skin Deep can give insight into what is in your personal care products.  Some companies are stepping up to the plate and phasing out antibacterials, see Avon’s statement.   And last year, Johnson & Johnson announced it would phase out triclosan in its beauty and baby care products by 2015. Proctor and Gamble has pledged to remove triclosan from its products by the end of 2014.

In the meantime, consumers can refer to EWG’s Guide to Triclosan to help reduce their exposure to the substance. One important tip is to avoid hand soaps and body washes labeled “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial.”

The skin microbiome balance has been associated with  dermatological disease, and…

Some investigators are beginning to think about other host effects including immunity.  The most substantive work I’ve found in this regard is that published by antimicrobial  expert Rolf U. Halden*, 2014: These chemicals are endocrine disruptors affecting the development, sexual maturation, metabolism, and behavior [118,119].  Of particular human health concern are the adverse effects of TCS on thyroid homeostasis and of TCC on reproductive health. [111,121,123,125].”

“The polychlorinated aromatic antimicrobials triclosan and
triclocarban are in widespread use for killing microorganisms
indiscriminately, rapidly, and by nonspecific action. While their
utility in healthcare settings is undisputed, benefits to users of
antimicrobial personal care products are few to none. Yet, these
latter, high-volume uses have caused widespread contamination
of the environment, wildlife, and human populations.”

Now would be a good time to get rid of the antibacterial products in your home.  This was one of the top three most beneficial things you could do to improve your health that I mentioned in our first meeting.  This post also gives more insight into practically reducing your “Total Body Toxin Burden.

See… not all major health beneficials are “diet” related although no doubt we’re eating the hand antibacterial hand sanitizers and personal care products besides absorbing such through our skin.

*Biography,  Rolf U. Halden
Rolf Halden is the Founding Director of the Center for Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute and professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University, as well as cofounding member and adjunct faculty at the Center for Water and Health of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Trained as a biologist and engineer, Rolf’s primary interests are in identifying environmental stressors of human and ecological concern and devising engineering and regulatory solutions. Rolf is a special government employee of the FDA, served as a voting member on its 2005 expert panel and presented on antimicrobials at the National Academies and on Capitol Hill.

I’d trust Rolf Halden’s concerns.  You?

Ditch the antibacterial products, please!

In health and awareness,


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