Antibacterial hand soap may be harmful

A new study undertaken by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado, has shown that a common chemical used in hand soaps may be harmful. Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical found in hand soap, deodorant, mouthwash, toothpaste, bedding, clothes, carpets, toys and trash bags.

The study looked at the effects of triclosan on muscle tissue under test tube conditions, and then broadened out to look at how it affected muscle function in mice and fathead minnows, a small fish. In all the experiments the doses of triclosan used were similar to those that people and animals may be exposed to during everyday life.

Firstly, under test tube conditions, it was found that triclosan impaired the contraction of heart and skeletal muscle tissue, causing muscle failure.

Secondly, anaesthetised mice were found to have up to a 25 per cent reduction in heart function within 20 minutes of exposure to the chemical. The mice also had an 18 per cent reduction in grip strength for up to an hour after being given a single dose of triclosan.

Finallly, flathead minnows which were exposed to triclosan in the water for seven days had significantly reduced swimming activity when compared to flathead minnows living in a triclosan-free environment.

Although it will take further study to understand how this drug affects the human body, the fact that the effects of this chemical were so pronounced over a number of animals under a range of conditions strongly suggests that triclosan could have an effect on human and animal health at the current levels of exposure.

It should also be noted that there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps and body washes are more effective than regula soap and water, but they are certainly more expensive.

To find out more you can read the original study at the University of California, Davis website.