Triclosan is a component of many important antibacterial products, including mouthwash and toothpaste. Many have argued that triclosan should not be included in these products because it is supposedly harmful to the organism, specifically to the endocrine system.
Some studies have suggested, but not proven, that triclosan acts against the natural bacteria within the digestive system. Human stomachs and intestines carry a microbiome that is very susceptible to changes that occur in its chemical environment.
If the bacteria on the digestive system is disturbed, many diseases can divert from the condition. This is one of the supposed effects of triclosan. As a very specific study has been recently published, experts are close to finding common ground regarding the matter.
Triclosan, a phenolic biocide
Triclosan (TCS) has become habitual when it comes to humans being exposed to it. Triclosan is a phenolic biocide that is able to kill bacteria and fungi with great effectiveness, depending on the type of organism it is applied to. People frequently touch or see items that have been in contact with TCS since many personal hygiene products, including clothing, credit card counters, and toys are teeming with the substance.
Triclosan is known to be an endocrine disruptor, as previous studies showed that its presence is able to inhibit female rats from producing estrogen; there are also cases where the substance has managed to stop or alter the production of testosterone and thyroid hormone when tested on in vitro environments. TCS can also act upon antibacterial resistance.
The split caused by triclosan
Because of its tremendous and reliable antibacterial effect, experts suggest that triclosan is harmful to the body, because when ingested, it supposedly focuses towards killing the aforementioned microbiome of bacteria.
It is known that some drugs can alter the composition of the native microbiome of the digestive system; there is also evidence that antibiotics can contribute towards obesity due to its effects on the digestive bacteria found in a common person’s mouth and stomach, but triclosan is also able to work against generic dental ailments such as gingivitis and plaque, making it a common component in mouthwash.
An article by Environmental Working Group (EWG) refers to triclosan as a “hormone-disrupting pesticide,” highlighting its appearance in hundreds of products all over the market. Triclosan is present in baby wipes and diaper cream, among other items, which has led to condemn its inclusion in the market without much regulation. Studies analyzing breast milk have confirmed that triclosan is able to leave traces among bodily fluids, but aside from that, there is no apparent harm that the chemical is causing to consumers.
Triclosan manufacturer CIBA was ordered to investigate the long-term carcinogenic effects of triclosan in animals, reviewing relations to other conditions and the overall status of the death of the specimen. The study was published in 1984 and it did not yield any results proving that triclosan was, in fact, harmful.
To avoid complications due to the inclusion of triclosan in over-the-counter products, the Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed rule that forced antibacterial manufacturers to provide evidence assuring that their products were especially able to kill bacteria, more so than regular soap or cleaning products.
But there is a different view towards triclosan coming from the Stanford School of Medicine. Professor Julie Parsonnet led a study in which 13 participants were reviewed over the course of four months. The amount and frequency of them using triclosan-based products was recorded and their daily habits were also taken into account.
The study followed previous data showing that triclosan is able to be detected in the urine of 4 out of 5 individuals, becoming a very common substance within our bodies. It seems that the changes in the bacterial microbiome on the digestive system are mainly due to diseases, metabolic ailments, obesity, diabetes and related conditions.
The results showed that the participants that had used triclosan displayed an increased level of the substance in their urine, but the levels of their intestinal bacteria appeared to be normal. Neither gut or oral bacteria were affected by the presence of triclosan, in spite of minimal changes in the organism that were regarded as non-significant – there were no changes in testosterone, T4, thyroid-stimulating hormone or any indicator related to the development of obesity or diabetes. It is also worth pointing out that most participants maintained their weight throughout the experiment
Professor Parsonnet claimed that triclosan does not harm intestinal bacteria at all. She stated that there was no supporting evidence to support the claim, which has been a concern since the 1960’s when antibacterial soaps and chemicals started to appear in hospitals, specifically triclosan.
But the study did not underestimate the action of triclosan towards eliminating bacteria.
“When you throw most antibiotics into humans, they are an atom bomb on the microbiota, but we found that when people are exposed to triclosan through normal household products, it does not cause a major blow to our microbial ecosystems,” added Professor Parsonnet.
Source: Science Daily