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Don't buy the hype about antibacterial products-- danger looms

Don’t fall for it

You can’t say the word “triclosan” without saying “trick.”

And you can take that as a hidden warning because we have been thoroughly tricked into believing that we need this chemical to protect us from a universe of evil microbes.

Don’t believe a word of it.

Triclosan is actually making us MORE vulnerable to powerful new strains of bacteria.

Overkill everywhere

Next time you’re at a grocery store or a pharmacy, look through the hand soap section and try to find a single product that’s not labeled “antibacterial.” Don’t be surprised if every one of them makes the antibacterial claim.

Triclosan is the active ingredient in antibacterial soaps and other products, which include deodorants, medicated sprays and ointments, kitchen cutting boards, fabrics, cosmetics, and even toothpaste.

But is this antibiotic overkill actually making us safer?

A 2007 study from the University of Michigan says it’s all hype. UM researchers reviewed existing triclosan data and reported that antibacterial soap products are no better than normal soap at preventing infection.

Then last month, another UM team found that kids under the age of 18 with high levels of triclosan in their urine were much more likely to be diagnosed with allergies such as seasonal hay fever. Researchers believe that triclosan compromises the immune system, prompting the allergies.

Down the slippery slope

Saddling kids with a lifetime of hay fever is pretty bad. But it’s relatively minor compared to a much larger concern.

Triclosan promotes antibiotic resistance. And that makes all of us more vulnerable to infections–especially those hospital superbugs like MRSA. In the 2007 UM report, researchers wrote, “E. coli strains that are resistant to triclosan actually have increased growth rates.”

Earlier this year, FDA officials admitted that there are “valid concerns” about triclosan safety. In addition to antibiotic resistance, animal studies suggest the chemical may interfere with hormone regulation.

But don’t expect the FDA to fly into action. Agency researchers have been working on a review of triclosan safety that MIGHT be ready by next spring.

I don’t think we need to wait for spring to hear the inevitable. After all, with a little effort we can start avoiding triclosan exposure right now. Just Google “triclosan-free” and you’ll come up with thousands of websites that carry soap, toothpaste and many other products that put triclosan right where you want it: out of the mix.

Please share this e-mail with friends and family. The more who avoid triclosan, the better off we’ll all be.

“The Impact of Bisphenol A and Triclosan on Immune Parameters in the US Population, NHANES 2003-2006” Environmental Health Perspectives, Published online ahead of print, 11/29/10,
“FDA to Re-Examine Anti-Bacterial Chemical in Soaps, Cleansers” Amanda Gardner, HealthDay News, 4/8/10,
“The Ubiquitous Triclosan” Aviva Glaser, Pesticides and You, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2004,

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