Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Environmental and Health Impacts of Antibacterial Soap

Health + Wellness
Environmental and Health Impacts of Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soaps are about the worst choice when it comes to cleaning your hands or your house. They are no more effective than plain old soap and water, but pollute the environment and may be contributing to antibacterial resistance.

The two antibacterial chemicals most commonly used are triclocarban (TCC) and triclosan (TCS). Rolf Halden, co-founder of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Water and Health, and his colleagues conducted a study that showed while wastewater treatment removes 97 percent of TCC from municipal sewage, as much as 75 percent of the mass of the chemicals then is transferred to the sewage sludge. When the sludge is recycled for use on agricultural lands, the TCC enters the soil and potentially contaminates adjacent surface waters.

By some estimates, 75 percent of liquid hand soap contains triclosan or other antibacterial compounds.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Halden said that when a consumer buys four bars of antiseptic soap, the “active” ingredient in as many as three of them will make its way into agriculture. The presence of TCC in soil and water supplies is worrisome because the chemical degrades into two substances, both of which are carcinogens, Halden said.

TCS, meanwhile, is a precursor of environmentally persistent dioxins. During drinking water treatment, TCS may be converted into known animal and possible human carcinogens, including chloroform.

Soaps containing TCC and TCS probably pose little risk to people washing their hands, but if the chemicals and their transformation products are introduced to humans through food and water supplies, this may eventually create health problems. To date, traces of TCS have been discovered in fish and human breast milk. It is so prevalent that a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the chemical present in the urine of 75 percent of Americans over the age of 5.

“Biocides are abundant now in the environment,” Halden said.

And some suspect consumer products with TCC and TCS may be contributing to the spread of resistant bacteria. The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association concluded that antimicrobials in which resistance has been seen should be discontinued unless data can conclusively show that this resistance has no impact on public health and that such products actually prevent infection. The FDA has said its review of triclosan is now a top priority.

 

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Visible satellite image of Tropical Storm Kyle and Tropical Storm Josephine as of 9:10 a.m. EDT Saturday, August 15, 2020. RAMMB / CIRA / Colorado State University

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

The record-busy 2020 Atlantic hurricane season brought another addition to its bevy of early-season storms at 5 p.m. EDT August 14, when Tropical Storm Kyle formed off the coast of Maryland.

Read More Show Less
The Ocean Cleanup

By Ute Eberle

In May 2017, shells started washing up along the Ligurian coast in Italy. They were small and purple and belonged to a snail called Janthina pallida that is rarely seen on land. But the snails kept coming — so many that entire stretches of the beach turned pastel.

Read More Show Less
Feeding an orphaned bear. Tom MacKenzie / USFWS

By Hope Dickens

Molly Craig's day begins with feeding hungry baby birds at 6 a.m. The birds need to be fed every 15 minutes until 7 at night. If she's not feeding them, other staff at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn, Illinois take turns helping the hungry orphans.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Douglas Broom

"Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people," said former U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt.

Read More Show Less
A bald eagle flies over Lake Michigan. KURJANPHOTO / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Michigan bald eagle proved that nature can still triumph over machines when it attacked and drowned a nearly $1,000 government drone.

Read More Show Less
The peloton ride passes through fire-ravaged Fox Creek Road in Adelaide Hills, South Australia, during the Tour Down Under cycling event on January 23, 2020. Brenton Edwards / AFP / Getty Images

A professional cycling race in Australia is under attack for its connections to a major oil and gas producer, the Guardian reports.

Read More Show Less

Trending

UQ study lead Francisca Ribeiro inspects oysters. The study of five different seafoods revealed plastic in every sample. University of Queensland

A new study of five different kinds of seafood revealed traces of plastic in every sample tested.

Read More Show Less