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Surprising Dangers of Waterless Handcleaners

Written by Wellness Club on June 10, 2009 – 6:02 pm -

Surprising Dangers of Waterless Handcleaners

By Dr. Myatt

It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Wash your hands (or face, or baby’s bottom, etc.) any time, any place without water by using antibacterial "wipes" and waterless gels. After all, "everyone knows" that dirty hands spread germs, and anything that let’s you have a quick cleanse should be good, or so the theory goes. Before you abandon plain ol’ soap and water for waterless gels or wipes, here are some surprising facts about this seemingly innocent but potentially very dangerous practice.

Triclosan is the main antimicrobial agent in many antibacterial gels, wipes and numerous other products including soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams, mouth washes, and cleaning products. It is also infused in many items such as kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, socks, and trash bags.

Trichlosan is a broad-spectrum microbicide with at least four known "unintended consequences," none of them good. Here’s what triclosan does and why I recommend steering clear of products containing this chemical.

1.) It creates "Super Bugs." Although it does a "heavy microbe kill", trichlosan doesn’t kill ALL bugs. Resistance has already been identified in E.coli, salmonella and pseudomonas. This is analogous to the problem we now have with bacteria as a result of overuse of antibiotics: the bugs become resistant to the drug so that eventually nothing can kill them. We are potentially creating more "Super Bugs" by the use of triclosan.(1-11)

2.) It disrupts thyroid function. Trichlosan has anti-thyroid effects, at least in animals. Trichlosan competes for the thyroid receptor and has been seen in animals to decrease circulating thyroid levels. This isn’t a hypothetical effect, it has already been demonstrated. And because trichlosan is "persistent" (it doesn’t degrade or leave the body — or the earth — quickly or easily), this thyroid-disrupting effect may be around for many years. (12-13)

3.) It degrades into Toxic Compounds. Under common environmental conditions, triclosan degrades into a number of toxic compounds including dioxin, chloroform and other chlorinated compounds, many known or suspected carcinogens.  To further the problem, as stated above, these compounds are "persistent," meaning they don’t degrade easily and so accumulate in water, fat tissue, soil, fish and other wildlife.(14-17)

4.) It causes environmental contamination. Triclosan makes it’s way into the environments through wastewater treatment plant effluent, urban stormwater, rural stormwater, and agricultural runoff. In ground water, it has already been identified at levels high enough to cause genetic mutations and hormone disruption in wildlife.(18-21)

Dr. Myatt’s Bottom Line: Using trichlosan has never been shown to do a better job of decreasing bacterial diseases than plain ol’ soap and water.

"The use of these products have never been shown to be superior, to my knowledge, to regular soap and water" according to Dr. Tamar Barlan, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s project on antibiotic resistance.

What we DO know is that this chemical can help breed "Super Bugs," disrupt thyroid function and create cancer-causing compounds. Because it degrades slowly, it’s likely to be "the gift that keeps on giving," contaminating the environment for decades to come.

With no proven benefit and at least four serious "anti-benefits," and considering that this stuff hangs around for so long in our bodies and the environment, I suggest we would all do well to stay far away from thriclosan.

If you can’t wash your hands the old fashioned way with soap, use an alcohol wipe without trichlosan OR a waterless handcleaner based on alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

In Health,
Dr. Myatt

References:

1.) Siamak P. Yazdankhah, Anne A. Scheie, E. Arne Høiby, Bjørn-Tore Lunestad, Even Heir, Tor Øystein Fotland, Kristine Naterstad, Hilde Kruse. Triclosan and Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacteria: An Overview. Microbial Drug Resistance. Summer 2006, 12(2): 83-90.
2.) CHARLES W. WELDEN REX A. HOSSLER. EVOLUTION IN THE LAB:
Biocide Resistance in E. coli. THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, VOLUME 65, NO. 1, JANUARY 2003, pp.56-61.
3.) Levy, C.W., Roujeinikova, A., Sedelnikova, S., Baker, P., Stuitje,
A., Slabas, A., Rice, D.W. & Rafferty, J.B. (1999). Molecular
basis of triclosan activity. Nature, 398, 383-384.
4.) Levy, S.B. (1998). The challenge of antibiotic resistance.
Scientific American, 278, 46-55.
5.) McMurray, L.M., Oethinger, M., Levy, S.B. (1998). Triclosan
targets lipid synthesis. Nature, 394, 531-532.
6.) Sasatusu, M. (1993). Triclosan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
The Lancet, 341, 756.
7.) Stix, G. (1998). The E. coli are coming. Scientific American, 279,
29.
8.) Travis, J. (2000). Popularity of germ fighter raises concern.
Science News, 157, 342.
9.) Henderson, C.W. (Ed.) (2000a). Use of triclosan in household products may increase harmful microbial resistance. Tuberculosis & Outbreaks Week, August 15, 2000.
Henderson, C.W. (Ed.) (2000b).
10.) Tuberculosis & Outbreaks Week, September 19, 2000.
Larkin, M. (1999). A close look at triclosan raises questions.
The Lancet, 353, 1160.
11.) Aiello AE, et al "Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky" Clinical Infectious Diseases 2007; 45, Supp.2: S137-147.
12.) Veldhoen N, Skirrow RC, Osachoff H, Wigmore H, Clapson DJ, Gunderson MP, Van Aggelen G, Helbing CC. The bactericidal agent triclosan modulates thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and disrupts postembryonic anuran development.  Aquat Toxicol. 2006 Dec 1;80(3):217-27. Epub 2006 Sep 29
13.) Zorrilla LM, Gibson EK, Jeffay SC, Crofton KM, Setzer WR, Cooper RL, Stoker TE. The effects of triclosan on puberty and thyroid hormones in male Wistar rats. Toxicol Sci. 2009 Jan;107(1):56-64. Epub 2008 Oct 21.
14.) Rule KL, Ebbett VR, Vikesland PJ. Formation of chloroform and chlorinated organics by free-chlorine-mediated oxidation of triclosan.Environ Sci Technol. 2005 May 1;39(9):3176-85.
15.) D.E. Latch, J. Packer, B. Stender, J. Van Overbeke, W. Arnold, and K. McNeill, Aqueous Photochemistry of Triclosan: formation of 2,4-Dichlorophenol, 2,8-Dichlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin, and Oligomerization Products,
Environ. Toxicol. Chem, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp. 517-525, 2005.
16.) EPA, Office of Water. Water Quality Standards Database Ambient Water Quality Criteria for 2,4-dichlorophenol. EPA 440/5-80-042, October 1980.
17.) K.L. Rule, V.R. Ebbett, P.J. Vikesland. Formation of Chloroform and Chlorinated Organics by Free-Chlorine- Mediated Oxidation of Triclosan. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2005. 39, 3176 – 3185.
18.) B.A. Wilson, V.H Smith, F. de Noyelles Jr. C.K. Larive, Effects of three pharmaceutical and personal care products on natural freshwater algal assemblages, Environ.Sci. Technol. 2003.
19.) L. Samsoe-Petersen, M. Winther-Nielsen, and T. Madsen, Danish EPA, “Fate and Effects of Triclosan,”
September 2003.
20.) Lindstrom, A.; Buerge, I. J.; Poiger, T.; Bergqvist, P.-A.; Muller, M.D.; Buser, H.-R. Occurrence and
Environmental Behavior of the Bactericide Triclosan and Its Methyl Derivative in Surface Waters and in
Wastewater Environ. Sci. Technol. 2002. 36, 2322-2329
21.) Balmer. M.; Poiger, T.; Droz. C.; Romanin. K.; Bergqvist, P.; Muller. M.; Buser. R.; Occurance of methyl triclosan, a transformation product of the batericide Triclosan, in fish from various lakes in Switzerland. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2004, 38, 390-395.

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