There's A Frog Disruptor In My Soap


We’ve all seen the personal care items that proclaim the equivalent of ‘Kills Bacteria On Contact,’ or, ‘Kills the Germs That Cause Bad Breath.’ There’s a whole conversation we could start about whether sterile lifestyles…the sort that get enforced with bactericides in personal care and cleaning products… could have an adverse impact on childhood immune system development and allergic response. But, we’ll leave that topic for later. This post is focused on the environmental risk versus the human health benefit of adding the bacteriocide Triclosan to soaps and lotions. (A list of consumer products containing triclosan is presented below.) We're focused on this more narrow question because of a recently studied consequence of triclosan in freshwater environments. Triclosan, widely used in soaps and toothpastes for its ability to kill bacteria, has been found to hasten the transformation of tadpoles into adult frogs. The new research, "published online September 29 in Aquatic Toxicology , is the first to show that triclosan can act as an endocrine disrupter at concentrations found in North American streams... More than 55% of streams examined in 2002 had a median concentration of 0.14 parts per billion (ppb) (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2002, 36, 2322–2329)". The concern is not just with aquatic life, due to triclosan’s structural similarity to thyroid hormones, which orchestrate growth and development in wildlife and humans.So, why is a powerful bactericide included in a large number of personal care and cleaning products? Did some focus group indicate a nation-wide demand to get this in our mouths and on our skin? Before you offer a comment, consider this. Liquid products with no intrinsic anti-bacterial properties may have a shortened shelf life and product quality problems stemming from biodegradation. (Remarkably, even industrial lubricating oils and greases need to have anti-bacterial compounds added to prevent spoilage.) The obvious question would be: is Triclosan primarily added as a consumer product preservative? Or, is its addition mainly because of the ability to do marketing based on health claims? If the former, it would be USEPA regulated as a pesticide. If the latter, it would most likely be FDA regulated. We wonder if the eco-toxicological implications of triclosan in sewerage treatment plant overflows and in landfill leachate will get USEPA’s attention now, regardless of how it currently is being regulated?

The following partial list of Triclosan-containing personal care products was obtained from the Household Products Database.

Noxzema Triple Clean Antibacterial Lathering Cleanser

Colgate Total Toothpaste, Fresh Stripe

Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Solar

Gentle Antibacterial Body Soap with Moisture Beads

Clearasil Daily Face Wash

Shield Deodorant Soap Bar, Surf Scent

Softsoap Gentle Antibacterial Body Wash with Vitamins

Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel

Softsoap Fruit Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

Right Guard Sport, Deodorant Aerosol, Fresh

Right Guard Sport, Clear Stick Deodorant

Suave Deodorant Soap, Antibacterial

Old Spice High Endurance Stick Deodorant,

pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin Cleanser

Softsoap Liquid Antibacterial Body Soap

Clean and Smooth Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

Old Spice Red Zone Antiperspirant & Deodorant

Colgate Total Toothpaste

Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss

New Vaseline Brand Intensive Care Antibacterial Hand Lotion

Lever 2000 Soap Bar Antibacterial

Lever 2000 Deodorant Soap Bar

Imina Lathering Facial Cleanser

Softsoap 2 in 1 Antibacterial Hand Soap Plus Moisturizing Lotion

Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap with Light Moisturizers

Right Guard Sport, Deodorant Aerosol

Suave Liquid Hand Soap, Antibacterial

Bath & Body Instant AntiBacterial Hand Gel-Freesia

Dial Liquid Antibacterial Soap, Original Formula

Clean and Smooth Kitchen Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

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