Triclosan Exposure Levels Increasing in Humans, New Data Shows Potential for Food Contamination

Updates from the CDC, New Scientific Study, Prove Need for Ban on Triclosan, Triclocarban

WASHINGTON (August 5, 2010) -- Levels of the chemical triclosan have increased in humans by an average of 50 percent since 2004, according to newly updated data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, a new study out of the University of Toledo has found that both triclosan and triclocarban can enter the food chain through of the use of contaminated wastewater or fertilizer in agricultural fields.

Each of these findings on its own is troubling, but together they make the case for banning the two chemicals even stronger, according to health experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Triclosan and triclocarban are found in consumer and personal care products, such as hand soap, labeled anti-bacterial or anti-microbial. But the two chemicals are suspected endocrine disruptors that can interfere with hormones needed for the brain and reproductive system to develop properly.  The Food and Drug Administration has admitted that using hand soap containing these chemicals actually does not work any better than regular soap. NRDC sued the FDA last week to issue a final rule on the safety and effectiveness of the two chemicals that has been three decades in the making.

Updated data added this week to the CDC’s National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals found that levels of triclosan in the U.S. population have increased by an average of 50 percent in all age groups, both genders and all reported ethnicities. People over 20 years of age, females and Mexican-Americans are the most highly exposed.

Both triclosan and triclocarban are found in treated waste water and sewage sludge, which is specially treated and commonly applied to agricultural fields as fertilizer. A study published on-line this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that soybean plants can absorb triclosan and triclocarban through their roots and then into the beans. Though this experiment was done in a greenhouse, it raises concerns because it suggests that humans are not only exposed through their use of certain antimicrobial products, but also potentially through eating contaminated food.

The following is a statement from Dr. Sarah Janssen, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The widespread and unregulated use of antimicrobials such as triclosan and triclocarban must end. In just two years, human exposure to triclosan has dramatically risen and now there is evidence that our food supply could also be contaminated with these chemicals. With no proven benefit and many red flags raised for harmful health impacts, the use of these so-called anti-microbials is an unnecessary and stupid use of toxic chemicals.”