Anti-bacterial Ingredient Triclosan Found to Weaken Muscle

Washing Hands with Liquid Soap

Triclosan, a chemical added to many dozens of household products, has been in the news this past week as a new study finds that the chemical weakens muscle by interfering with the movement of calcium in cells. Data from the study “provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health.”

Where are the environmental protections that we rely on? Earlier this year, the Canadian Ministers of Environment and Health announced a finding that “triclosan is not harmful to human health, but in significant amounts can cause harm to the environment.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control Fact Sheet on Triclosan still says, “More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to triclosan.” Despite the slow-moving national regulation of chemical additives, the research finally seems to have reached a tipping point.

Environmental Working Group, in their 2008 report on Triclosan, recommended removing the chemical from all consumer products. That might seem an extreme conclusion at first. For those companies that add the chemical to dozens of products, it might seem impossible to discontinue its use. Continued research and persistent pressure have brought us to the point where a ban on triclosan seems possible, even probable.


Claims As a Germ Killer

Triclosan has been added to consumer products as a germ killer. We know it best as an ingredient in anti-bacterial soap. Does antibacterial soap work better than other soap to kill bacteria? No, dozens of studies have found that triclosan does not work better than plain soap.


It’s Not Just Soap

You might think you would find this so-called anti-bacterial pesticide just in anti-bacterial soap, but it is used in consumer products throughout your house: toothpaste, toys, filters, vacuums, cart covers, and even hockey helmets.

A few of the products containing triclosan include: Colgate Total, Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Faberware Microban Cutting Boards, Fellowes Cordless Microban Keyboard and Microban Mouse Pad, Biofresh socks, Playskool toys (Stack ‘n Scoop Whale, Rockin’ Radio, Hourglass, Sounds Around Driver, Roll ‘n Rattle Ball, Animal Sounds Phone, Busy Beads Pal, Pop ‘n Spin Top, Lights ‘n Surprise Laptop), Ticonderoga Antibacterial pencil, Bauer hockey helmets, Miller Paint Interior Paint, Dupont Air Filters, BioEars earplugs, Petmate LeBistro feeders and waterers, Infantino cart covers and baby carriers, Bissell Healthy Home Vacuum, Rival Seal-A-Meal Vacuum Food Sealer, CleenFreek SportsHygiene Yoga Mat. (See Beyond Pesticides for their list of products containing triclosan, and see the SkinDeep database for a list of cosmetics that include triclosan. Check the Good Guide for product ratings, and download their app so you can scan bar codes as you shop.)

Especially as more research shows potential harm from triclosan, you might find that the chemical disappears from some of these products. As Beyond Pesticides points out, “many companies are quietly taking triclosan out of their products Remember to always refer to product labels to determine whether triclosan is contained in your product.”


Getting Rid of Triclosan

As with so much of the chemical body burden resulting from the experimental innovations of modern synthetics, chemicals accumulate in our bodies. There is a way a woman can rid herself of these chemicals: breastfeed. That’s right. Triclosan and other chemicals are found in breastmilk then passed to babies. It is unlikely we can prevent all exposure to Triclosan and other dangerous chemicals without a complete ban from consumer products, but we as individuals can limit our exposure by understanding the products that use these chemicals and avoiding those products.

Environmental Working Group recommended in 2008 that Triclosan be banned from all consumer products. Just this week, Johnson & Johnson announced that they will remove Triclosan from all products by the end of 2015. Consumer pressure does work to remove these dangerous ingredients from the products that surround us. It helps us all to vote with our dollars and avoid products with experimental chemical ingredients, but we also need to keep up the pressure as consumers to encourage changes like this.


Naturally Antibacterial

As you pack your child’s school bag, if you are looking for naturally antibacterial cleaners that do not add to your child’s chemical body burden, consider Clean George (Made in USA) and Graydon (Made in Toronto). Both products use essential oils as the antibacterial ingredient.

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Healthy Dirt: Importance of a Non-Sterile Environment for Children

Child playing in dirt

Asthma, food allergies, and environmental allergies are on the rise in developed countries. Allergies have gone from 10% of the Western population in 1980 to 30% today. Why?

The Hygiene Hypothesis offers us an answer. This medical hypothesis states that a lack of early childhood exposure to germs has meant a rise in allergies and suppressed immune function. Zealous hygiene and overuse of antibacterial products, which are more common in the industrialized world, are well intentioned but actually have the effect of making us weaker. Put simply, children need germs to develop a healthy immune system. For children to develop their full potential immunity, they need a non-sterile environment.

Should each of us as parents be concerned about maintaining our children’s health? Absolutely. That includes nutrition, activity, a stress-free environment, and even natural exposure to dirt and good bacteria. That doesn’t need to include filters and antibacterial hand goo unless the child is already in a compromised state. A sterile environment is not a healthy environment. Quite the contrary.

When we talk about reducing toxins in your home, we aren’t talking about the good bacteria that we have evolved relationships with. Remove the chemical toxins that make you sick, and embrace the bacteria that keep you healthy. Gut flora have enzymes that help us digest foods. If the balance of good bacteria is changed (through overuse of antibiotics, for example), that can interrupt our ability to get the nutrition we need from the same amount of food. As our internal bacteria change, our digestion and waste processes try to adjust. Killing our gut flora can make us sick.

We need microorganisms. We are full of microorganisms that help us maintain our health. There are plenty of situations when we need to embrace microorganisms, dig our hands in the dirt, and let our bodies function naturally.


Help Your Children Maintain Healthy Microorganisms

Encourage children to eat fermented foods and priobotic foods. Your children will follow your lead in the foods that they love. These foods have beneficial bacteria that help digestion. This might be a taste acquired at a bit older age, but introduce more over time as their tastes develop. Just make it a habit to eat cheese, dark chocolate, pickles, vinegar, kimchi and sauerkraut, bread, yoghurt, sour cream, soy sauce and miso, and many other flavorful foods from around the world.

Use only natural antibacterials like essential oils and vinegar. We carry Clean George hand purifier for those situations when you need to get rid of bad bacteria, such as after a diaper change while travelling.

Ask a holistic pediatrician for help in supporting your child’s normal immune development.

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Antimicrobial Overkill

Disinfectant overkill with spray bottle and plastic glove

Antimicrobial cleaners and treatments—disinfectants—kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but they also have potential harmful health and environmental effects. They don’t distinguish between good bacteria and bad bacteria. But, a lot of people continue to use antibacterial household products that promise hygiene and safety. Everyone wants to be safe, don’t they?

Use of disinfectants such as nano silver in everyday situations is overkill. Even in more extreme situations, there is a lot of debate about whether the antimicrobial benefits outweigh the potential risks.

Nano silver is not new but it has been used in more household products in the past decade, so concerns have seen more publicity. It can be embedded in plastics (pacifiers and baby bottles), coated on textiles (anti-bacterial socks or baby products), and even added to soaps labelled “all natural” (though it is banned in Canadian organics).

The U.S. EPA is considering an application to register nano silver as a pesticide, which the Natural Resources Defense Council vigorously opposes as “illegal, irresponsible, and potentially dangerous to the public.” Unfortunately, the application to use nano silver as a pesticide is just a clever way to keep it on the market until a final decision is made. Nanomaterials are regulated by Environment Canada as pollution and waste.

Though marketed by some as an alternative cure-all, even most alternative medicine practitioners warn against claims made for unregulated medicinal silver use.

Nano silver particles are super small, 1-100 nanometers, which is a lot closer to the size of an atom than to the width of a hair. Their size means they can penetrate and accumulate in tissue. Particles coating fabrics don’t necessarily stay on fabrics. Since the particles are too small to be filtered out during the wastewater treatment process after they have been freed from antibacterial soap or socks or diaper bags or towels or even washers, the particles stay in the water after they wash down the drain. These antibacterial particles could even kill microbes used in wastewater treatment. Once these nano particles are released into the waterways, aquatic life will encounter them. A study of the effect of nano silver on zebrafish “found that some died and others were left with dramatic mutations.” Studies find problems in plant life with nano particles in soil.

Given that nano silver can have an effect on the immune system, cause neurological problems, result in kidney damage, and boost greenhouse emissions, it looks like a threat to public health.

Too many disinfectants do the job so well that they harm more than the bacteria they are intended to kill. It’s like using a sledgehammer for a push pin. For cautions and alternatives to heavy-handed disinfectants like chlorine bleach, Triclosan, and nano-silver, read Disinfectant Overkill from Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Reduce toxins and potentially risky new technologies hidden in household products by making your own cleaners. Women’s Voices for the Earth has a room-by-room guide to reducing disinfectant exposure.

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