It has long been thought that the use of anti-bacterial products was an extra precaution, to ensure that we are protecting ourselves from germs and bacteria. However, a new study finds that pregnant women and their fetuses may face certain health risks. These findings come on the heels of an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration, as to whether or not it should recommend consumers use less of common antibacterial compounds, such as hand soap.
Researcher Benny Pycke says, “We looked at the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used germ-killers in soaps and other everyday products. We found triclosan in all of the urine samples from the pregnant women that we screened. We also detected it in about half of the umbilical cord blood samples we took, which means it transfers to fetuses. Triclocarban was also in many of the samples.”
Pycke says that there is mounting evidence that suggests usage of products with these compounds can eventually lead to reproductive problems and developmental issues in animals, and potentially humans. There is also research to suggest that these potentially harmful additives can also be contributing to antibiotic resistance, which is steadily becoming a large public health problem. The lead investigator in the study Rolf Halden says, “If you cut off the source of exposure, eventually triclosan and triclocarban would quickly be diluted out, but the truth is that we have universal use of these chemicals, and therefore also universal exposure.”
These additives are not only found in hand-soap and sanitizers but in over 2,000 other products that we use every day, including detergents, paints, school supplies, carpets, toothpaste, and more. Scientist Laura Geer found that this new study has shown a link between women who have higher levels of another antimicrobial, butylparaben, more commonly found in cosmetics, and a correlation with shorter newborn lengths. While any long-term consequences are not yet evident, Geer believes that if this finding can be confirmed in some larger studies, it may mean that widespread exposure to compounds such as these may be causing a shift in birth sizes.
The FDA, along with industry and state policymakers are beginning to act on the mounting evidence against anti-microbial and antibacterial products. Minnesota was the first state to pass a ban on antimicrobial usage in certain products. This ban is set to take effect in January of 2017. Even large companies that have mass-manufactured antibacterial products in the past, such as Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble have announced that they will soon be removing the compound out of some of their products. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA are set to review the usage and the effects of the compound.