It’s In Your Blood: Antibacterial Chemical is Polluting Our Water and Our Bodies
Yesterday I wrote about triclosan, an antibacterial chemical widely used in antibacterial soaps, deodorants, mouthwash and toothpastes. It’s even used in bedding, clothes, carpets and toys. Scientists are concerned that it’s polluting our waterways and altering microbial ecosystems in ways that may ultimately affect fish, birds and plants.
But what about us? If it’s safe enough for toothpaste, it must be perfectly safe, right? Not so much. Experts worry that triclosan is showing up in our bodies. It’s been detected in human blood, urine and even breast milk. What’s worse, recent experiments suggest it may weaken muscles by making it more difficult for them to contract. Given that the heart is one big, hardworking muscle, this is more than a little concerning.
Scientists at the University of California, Davis, reported last year that they were surprised by the lack of information regarding triclosan’s effects on muscle function. They ran experiments that showed that triclosan is toxic to muscle cells, and can affect the ability of heart muscle cells to contract. It’s found in more than 60% of American streams, in 30 states, and has been shown to affect the ability of fish to swim. This evidence represents “...previously unappreciated risk factors associated with pervasive exposures to triclosan in both humans and environmentally sensitive species (e.g. fish),” investigators wrote.
In other words, this chemical we’re pumping into the environment (at least one million pounds are produced each year)—and into our bodies—may be weakening our hearts and our muscles, while contributing to the destruction of our aquatic ecosystems.
Cherednichenko G, Zhang R, Bannister RA, Timofeyev V, Li N, Fritsch EB, et al. Triclosan impairs excitation-contraction coupling and Ca2+ dynamics in striated muscle. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Aug 28;109(35):14158-63. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211314109. Epub 2012 Aug 13.