When you use soap, shampoo, and toothpaste, you probably think you're helping your body by getting it clean. But if the products you use contain this common ingredient, you could be doing more harm than good.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine are investigating the effects of triclosan, a commonly used antimicrobial. And what they've found may convince you to put down the hand sanitizer.
The researchers' study, which they published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that triclosan may have damaging effects on our livers. Their study involved laboratory mice, but followed the same molecular mechanisms present in humans. And they found that the mice developed liver fibrosis and cancer after repeated exposure to the chemical.
The liver has to work hard to detoxify triclosan. So it's especially hard on the liver when it's combined with similar chemicals. When the researchers exposed the mice to triclosan for six months, they were more vulnerable to chemical-induced liver tumors. While six months in mice time is roughly 18 human years, prolonged exposure still adds up to risk of compromised liver function.
The researchers believe that triclosan negatively affects the liver because it interferes with a receptor protein that helps the liver remove foreign chemicals. When this receptor can't do its job effectively, the liver responds by creating more cells that can turn into fibroids. As this cycle continues, liver tumors become more likely.
Although it takes a long time for the effects of triclosan to accumulate, it's a chemical we're exposed to almost constantly. Other studies found triclosan in the breast milk of 97% of lactating women and in the urine of nearly 75% of study participants. It's also one of the top seven chemicals most frequently found in streams in the United States.
The FDA is evaluating triclosan, and the current study's researchers recommend that its use be limited in certain cases. Professor Bruce Hammock, PhD, explains, "We could reduce most human and environmental exposures by eliminating uses of triclosan that are high volume but of low benefit, such as inclusion in liquid hand soups. Yet we could also for now retain uses that show to have health value — as in toothpaste, where the amount used is small."
Because of risks of using triclosan, it's best to avoid it when possible to limit your exposure. Take a look at the soaps and shampoos you're using. If triclosan is listed as an ingredient, try to find a more natural option. You can get clean without harming your liver.
To your health, naturally,