Another reason to skip Triclosan – Microbes play a crucial role in human health?

I read a compelling article in the Washington Post discussing the advances in microbial research and human health. The article started with a sentence designed to make you reach for a hand sanitizer – of the average person’s 100 trillion cells, only about 1 in 10 is human. It then went on to talk about the unique microbial ecosystems that help us live and may well explain why one person suffers from any number of diseases and another does not.

The article discusses how our microbial systems – acquired beginning at birth – may help “steer normal development, molding immune sysetms and calibrating fundamental metabolic functions such as energy storage and consumption.” These systems may explain why one person gets cancer and another doesn’t.

Yet, we don’t understand these systems yet. And, our rush to use antibiotics, antibacterials, and heavy cleaning chemicals and even electric Caesarean delivery of babies may be disrupting nature’s balance, leading to a host of disease.

So, I was really struck by that the article just gives one more reason why not to use an unneccessary antibacterial such as Triclosan.

And I was also struck by the suggestive evidence that the use of antibiotics during pregnancy, as children and in our food may be leading to obesity. The research suggest that antibiotics may be killing off the bacteria needed to regulate the hormones which are key players in regulating metabolism, hunger and a sense of fullness.

And, I was also struck by the statement that one finding from the recent research is that babies born through Caesarean sections apparently miss out on acquiring their mothers’ microbiota. This may lead to certain diseases, such as perhaps asthma. This should be fodder for those women fighting for vaginal delivery after a Caesarean, and should at least be considered by those considering elective Caesarean delivery.

But I guess what mostly struck me is that you really can’t monkey around with Mother Nature.

Goodguide Ranks Triclosan Containing Antimicrobial Q-Tips As Top Baby Product

Last week, the GoodGuide tweeted a link to its top rated baby products. So of course I checked out GoodGuide’s Best Baby Care Products. I was disappointed to see that several of the top rated products had ingredients I considered suspect or potentially of concern. I tweeted back to the Good Guide several comments and concerns about the list, and the Good Guide has contacted me and we are going to discuss my concerns. So I’ll save my post about why the purportedly Best Baby Care Products really aren’t until after we have a chance to have that conversation. However, one of the top rated products was Q-tips Cotton Swabs, Antimicrobial (listed as the number 12 top baby product).

Now, when any product contains to be antibacterial, it grabs my interest. You see, the EPA’s pesticide regulations govern claims regarding consumer products treated with pesticides.  Generally, antibacterial claims mean that the product is treated with triclosan. And triclosan has some potentially significant problems. Triclosan has been linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Triclosan also ends up in our aquatic environments because wastewater treatment plants can’t fully address the triclsoan load. And in the environment, triclosan is disruptive .

The GoodGuide gives Q-tips Cotton Swabs, Antimicrobial a “10” in Health. The Health portion of the score relates to the potential health effects of the product’s ingredients. The ingredients identified by GoodGuide  (from the product’s label) consist solely of 100% cotton. Yet, cotton doesn’t have any antimicrobial properties, so I sent off an email to inquire what made the  Q-tips antibacterial.

And, yes, I was right. The cotton swabs are treated with triclosan.

In fact, here is the response I received from my “friends at Q-Tips”:

Thank you for writing us regarding Q-Tips.

Swab made with 100% high quality bleached cotton specially carded to provide softness and 50% more cotton at the tip (Package carries “Seal of Cotton” logo).

The cotton tip is treated with an “antimicrobial” ingredient and is secured to the applicator with adhesive. The antimicrobial system is incorporated during the cotton swabs forming process.

Antimicrobial system/Processing aid consists of:

– Triclosan is the Antimicrobial

– Methocel is the binder

The incorporation of an antibacterial agent will help prevent the introduction of bacteria, mold and fungi during use and when exposed to potential contamination and environmental conditions (i.e. high humidity and termperature) conducive to bacterial growth and proliferation in storage or use.

So, I disagree with the GoodGuide giving this product top billing as a safe baby product. Any product with triclosan show receive a lower rating because of triclosan’s impact to the environment. In this case, the triclosan content may be low, and there may not be much exposure given how Q-tips are used, but there is still triclosan present, and parents may not expect it. And while the triclosan may be added to prevent contamination of the swab (and thereby exempting Unilever from the requirements of registering the triclosan as a pesticide), the packaging claim of antibacterial probably gives parents and caregivers the impression that using these Q-tips will prevent the transmission of disease. I don’t think that parents or caregivers should be encouraged to use these triclosan-containing Q-tips over conventional Q-tips (and if you are going to use conventional Q-tips, why not go for a green solution . . . )

So, to the GoodGuide, I encourage you to examine the products you are recommending and don’t just rely on the numbers. Put some thought into it.