Household Cleaning Chemicals in Breast Milk?
It’s supposed to help us keep things and ourselves clean. It is found in almost every household cleaning product from soaps to mouthwash, from toothpaste to deodorant, and from kitchen detergent to toilet cleaners. Yet this wide-spectrum anti-bacterial, anti-fungal agent may actually pose some health and environmental risks. I am talking about triclosan, a rather ubiquitous but controversial compound.
Here are some of the possible harmful effects of triclosan:
- Triclosan may lead to the development of resistant bacterial strains.
- It may be an endocrine disruptor, a substance which mimics certain types of hormones. Triclosan mimics the thyroid hormone, thus disrupting the metabolism of this hormone and the functioning of the thyroid gland. It has been shown to be harmful to certain aquatic animals.
- Triclosan combines with the chlorine in our tap water to produce the gas chloroform which can be toxic and carcinogenic.
- Triclosan finds its way into your breast milk and can be ingested by little babies.
On the other side of the coin, triclosan doesn’t seem to bring much benefit to the products where it is found, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). A soap, detergent or toothpaste with triclosan don’t seem to be any better in cleaning than those without. In addition to cleaning products, triclosan is also found in other products from countertops to toys and fabrics.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a safety study on triclosan but the EWG feels that the EPA assessment may be biased towards the industries using triclosan. EWG especially expressed concerns over exposure of babies to triclosan – e.g. baby care products, toys, blankets, – and breast milk.
An EWG testing of triclosan showed the following results:
- Breast milk – 97% of samples collected (60 out of 62) tested positive.
- Urine in people older than 6 – 75%
- Cord blood – 47%
- Rivers and streams – 58%
Based on these results and arguments, the EWG recommends the following:
- Consumers should avoid triclosan-containing products. Check your product labels!
- Manufacturers should not use triclosan in manufacturing their products.
- Triclosan should be banned from personal care products.
- The EPA should conduct a full, unbiased assessment.