Environmental Health Promotion
This mini-blog series is part two of the “Environmental Health Promotion” project, which deals with global health challenges that are harmful to both the environment and people’s well-being. Its main goal is to raise public awareness about how we can take care of the environment and improve global health. It also offers ways for individuals to protect themselves from these issues. In the first part of the report, we looked at five global health concerns: Antibiotic Resistance, PFAS, Vaccines and Immunization, Microplastics, and Mycotoxins. This next section will explore E-Waste, Formaldehyde, Triclosan, Bisphenol A, and Phthalates. These concerns will be explained in detail, including what the problem is and what individuals can do to help solve it. Since there is only one planet Earth, all of us need to take action. By getting involved, each of us can play a part in preserving the health of our planet, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the same quality of life that we do.
You can find the other blogs related to the second report here:
Triclosan, initially developed as a synthetic antimicrobial for surgical use due to its ability to inhibit bacteria, has gradually found its way into numerous consumer products, ranging from personal care to household items, all valued for their antibacterial qualities. This compound is present in a diverse range of products, including antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, toothpaste, deodorants, and certain cosmetics. Triclosan is also used in various household items such as cutting boards, kitchen utensils, and even bedding materials. The widespread use of triclosan in everyday essentials highlights its pervasive presence in our lives.
The main purpose of including triclosan in these products is to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. However, there are concerns regarding the potential negative impacts of triclosan on both human health and the environment. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that triclosan has been found in the urine of approximately 75 percent of the individuals they examined. This discovery has raised significant concerns about the extent to which people are being exposed to triclosan and the potential consequences for their health and the natural world.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the use of triclosan in over-the-counter antibacterial soaps. “Over-the-counter” (OTC) refers to medications, products, or treatments that are available without a prescription. These are typically items that you can purchase directly from a store or pharmacy without needing a doctor’s prescription. Likewise, the EU Regulation 2014/358, which came into effect on April 9, 2014, introduced limitations on the use of triclosan. It is now prohibited in products meant to be rinsed off your body, such as soap. Therefore, it is not allowed to be used as a preservative in body lotions and skin creams as per this regulation.
How serious is the problem?
The widespread use of triclosan has raised concerns about bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. Triclosan works in a similar way to some antibiotics, and if bacteria are exposed to it for a long time, they might become resistant to antibiotics, making those antibiotics less effective for treating infections.
Studies on animals have shown that triclosan can mess with hormones and how the endocrine system functions. It can mimic or block hormones, which could potentially affect how our bodies develop, how our thyroid works, and other hormone-related processes. But, we need more research to fully understand these effects in humans and figure out if they matter at the levels we are typically exposed to.
A study conducted on 10-year-old children in Norway found that concentrations of triclosan were associated with allergic sensitization, particularly concerning inhalant and seasonal allergens.
What can I do?
Based on information gathered from various sources, here are some recommendations to help reduce the risk of triclosan exposure:
- Avoid using products labeled as “antibacterial” or “odor-fighting,” as triclosan is commonly found in everyday items, such as toothbrushes, toys, and cutting boards.
- Cut down on the use of disinfectants that may contain triclosan. Instead, for regular household cleaning, rely on soap, which contains surfactants that can effectively remove dirt from surfaces.
- Be mindful of product labels to avoid items containing triclosan as an active ingredient. Pay special attention to products like deodorant, toothpaste, and other personal care items where triclosan might be present.
- Advocate for local, city, and state officials to implement regulations that prohibit the use of antibacterial hand soaps in public spaces.
Author: Fion Chan*
Edited by: Jasmine Therese Arcilla
*Fion is SOGH’s Environmental Sustainability Manager. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and is pursuing a Master of Medical Science in Global Health at the University of Gothenburg.