When we buy any daily care products or cosmetics, we prefer for antibacterial products with a hope that they will keep us and our family members safer. Have you ever doubted that these products will lower our risk of getting sick or being infected? Well, a recent study finds a relationship between a chemical in a personal care products and a reduction in bone mineral density. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent for which it is said that, an exposure to antibacterial products may worsen women’s bone. Women exposed to triclosan are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes weak bones and an increased risk of fracture. Triclosan is a chemical widely used as an antibacterial agent in soaps, tooth pastes, shampoo, deodorants, mouthwashes, pesticides, personal care products and other cleaning products.
A person can be exposed to triclosan (an endocrine-disrupting chemical) via consumer products and contaminated water. The US Food and Drug Administration have banned triclosan from hand sanitizer in recent years. Researchers in China after studying the data collected from around 1800 women, concluded that women with higher levels of triclosan in their urine were more likely to have weaker bones and are in a high risk of osteoporosis.
Though, FDA has banned the use of triclosan in hand sanitizers, it is still found in some toothpastes, on some clothing and even in furniture labelled as antimicrobial. Worldwide, an estimated 200 million women currently have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis predominantly affects women as they age. Although there are several causative factors, including genetics, certain medications, and body mass index, some researchers revealed the potential role of environmental chemicals.
What exactly is Triclosan?
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent used in several daily care products. Though it is banned, manufacturers still add it to several goods, including toothpaste, soap, and mouthwash. They also add it to some textiles and kitchenware. Even a small exposure to triclosan have become a cause for doctors, consumers and environmentalists. One major fact of triclosan is that it doesn’t dissolve or break down easily.
Triclosan based products are vulnerable to various chemical reactions when they’re washed down sinks and drains and wind up in our water supplies, oceans, and watersheds. This means that there is a greater ill effects that affects us in several major ways other than a direct impact on our health, it ultimately harms our environment as well. This, in turn, comes back to damage our health again in a variety of ways as it contaminates the food chain and can even contaminate our drinking water.
Unfortunately, in trying to prevent the diseases with antibacterial agents like triclosan, we have created the dangerous thing that seems to strengthen the issue even more.
The researchers worked hard to find the reason of osteoporosis and found that triclosan may have potential to adversely affect the bone mineral density. However, little is known about the relationship between triclosan and women bone health. Doctors’ use bone mineral density tests to diagnose osteoporosis and determine fracture risk.
First introduced in 1960, triclosan is one of the 24 chemicals banned by FDA for its use in antiseptic and antibacterial hand cleansers. Though there is no ban over such chemicals in United Kingdom. Several well-known companies like Unilever in 2015 announced that they have stopped manufacturing skincare and cleansing products using triclosan and triclocarban altogether. FDA issued these bans stating that there is no scientific evidence that these chemicals were safe for long term use or better than soap and water at preventing illness.
We can say that triclosan has become somewhat of an epidemic. This is mainly because several companies have managed to include it in their formula for a long period of time. A real fact is, it will certainly take a while for the effects of the ban to really take hold. Hopefully, the ban will be properly enforced and will ultimately prevent these brands from selling their products without altering their ingredients.
Survey results based on bone data
A survey was conducted which covered the questions related to demographics, diet and general health. Medical professionals also conducted physical examinations and took blood and urine samples of every participant. The researchers analyzed data from 1,848 women aged 20 years or above. They tested for triclosan in the urine samples, measured bone mineral density, and assessed the participants for osteoporosis.
During the research, the team also kept in view certain other factors that had the potential to vary the results, including age, ethnicity, level of physical activity, smoking, calcium intake, BMI, and history of diabetes. Finally, the analysis showed that women with higher levels of urinary triclosan had reduced bone mineral density in comparison with women with lower levels of urinary triclosan. This relationship was more prominent in postmenopausal women and was not significant in premenopausal women.
Connection between Triclosan and Osteoporosis
When the researchers investigated the connection between triclosan and osteoporosis, the results were not very clear. They evaluated four bone regions for the presence of osteoporosis. In three out of the four regions, there was no connection found between triclosan and osteoporosis. However, higher levels of triclosan did show an increase risk of osteoporosis in the intertrochanter region, which is the fourth region and the upper part of the thigh bone.
Because the researchers looked at women who were exposed to triclosan, as well as many other chemicals, during their whole life, this study cannot prove that triclosan is the only causing factor for osteoporosis. However, people have to look at the benefits of antibacterial agents like triclosan to determine if the potential risks are worth taking. If it has no benefits i.e. any exposure gives you risk without any benefit, then it should be avoided.
Still, as always, scientists will need to carry out much more research using a larger group of participants to confirm these findings. Exposure to antibacterial products may worsen women’s bone is still a topic of research. Till that time, consumers can limit their use of triclosan by not using toothpaste containing triclosan and by avoiding antimicrobial consumer products laced with triclosan, including clothes, kitchenware, office and school supplies, carpets and workstation surfaces.
Connection between triclosan and other health problems
Known as endocrine disruptor and a suspected carcinogen, is it also lipophilic i.e. it can bio-accumulate in your fat for long. It is recently detected in breast milk, blood and urine samples. Use of triclosan is also linked with several other effects on women’s health:
- Abnormal endocrine system/thyroid hormone signaling.
- Weakening of immune system.
- Uncontrolled cell growth.
- Developmental and reproductive toxicity.
Ways to avoid products that contain triclosan or any antibacterial agents
The perfect way to avoid anything is to know all about it – pros and cons. Well, when it is to avoid chemicals, it is a more complicated process. This is mainly because that these chemicals can be contained in a variety of different products and substances that we use on a regular basis, and most of us don’t bother to read the packaging in order to scan for a specific chemical or ingredient.
While companies are ordered by law to mention the ingredients that their products contain, the fact that most of the harmful chemicals that we would like to avoid have such complex names, or rather, have a variety of different forms, it becomes quite difficult for us to identify and avoid them all. In such situation, I would recommend replacing as many of the conventional, chemical based products in your home with safer, natural alternatives or simply cut them out of your life as far as possible.
First make a start from kitchen and the bathroom by replacing as many of your detergents, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorants and general cleaning supplies. Try switching by choosing natural, chemical free options in order to preserve your body’s natural immunity and prevent the illnesses and disease that can result from triclosan and similar chemicals and antibacterial agents.
There are a loads of variety available today for natural alternatives that have come about largely as a reaction to the issue of use of chemical in almost every aspect of our lives. There are healthier natural substitutes for all types of products such as shampoos, conditioners, creams, soaps, toothpaste, facial products and even cosmetics.
For example, one can use Castile soap instead of using any chemical based soaps. Castile soap is an organic and chemical free product. It is made of olive oil and laurel oil. It is rising as a best natural and bio-degradable soaps. This soap is available in many different forms from bars to liquid. Liquid form is becoming more popular as it is easier to mix and measure precisely. Castile soap is an all-purpose beauty and hygiene product, and household cleaner that you can customize to your specific tastes by experimenting using different Essential Oil infusions. It has several benefits as it is completely biodegradable, contains no harmful chemicals, assists skin healing, is gentle on skin, it won’t clog your pores, is helpful for sensitive skin, it is vegan friendly, very affordable, is better valued and lasts longer.
Make it a practice of using triclosan-free soap and triclosan-free hand sanitizer. I recommend the use of naturally antibacterial hand soaps with the use of thyme essential oil, fennel extract and other essential plant oils. Tea tree, grapefruit and pine essential oils are also naturally antimicrobial. Always wash counter surfaces regularly with natural plant-based solutions like vinegar, lemon and essential oil.
It only requires a little bit of effort in doing research online and you will find safer and natural versions of almost all daily usable products in your home. In short, don’t depend believing that conventional products will change their ways and will offer new healthy ways soon. Instead, make a move to a more natural lifestyle and start receiving the healthy benefits immediately. Strictly stay away from antibacterial products as exposure to antibacterial products may worsen women’s bone.