Transdermal Chemicals in Your Body: Triclosan

Hand sanitizers and cosmetics as well as children's toys may contain triclosan. Exposure to this transdermal chemical allows it to enter the body through the skin. The same property of triclosan that interferes with bacterial functions may also impact human muscle function. While this is still being researched, this may be a chemical that bears tracking.

Recent studies have caused the FDA to think twice about the pervasive use of a common household bactericide, triclosan (Triclosan, 2012). Triclosan, which inhibits bacterial growth by specifically inhibiting an enzyme required for bacterial lipid biosynthesis (Levy, 1999), can be found in a wide variety of products from childrens’ toys to toothpastes and cosmetics (Triclosan, 2012). While one study has shown that triclosan can inhibit the growth of the parasite which causes malaria (Mcleod, 2001) and another has shown that it is effective in Colgate Total toothpaste in preventing gingivitis (Triclosan, 2012), there is no evidence which promises added health benefits in other products containing the chemical (Triclosan, 2012). Recent findings suggest that the chemical may be more harmful than beneficial. A study published in 2000 found that triclosan easily enters the bloodstream through dermal absorption (Howes et al, 2000). A study conducted in Sweden found the chemical in 3 out of 5 human breast milk samples as well as in fish exposed to wastewater (Adolfsson-Erici, 2002). Most recently, a team of researchers from the University of California, Davis has found that triclosan impairs the functioning of striated muscle cells in humans and whole muscles in mice and minnows (Cherednichenko, 2012). In human heart and skeletal muscle cells, the researchers found that contraction by electrical stimulation failed when the cells were in the presence of triclosan. In mice exposed to the chemical, a reduction in heart muscle function and grip strength was seen, while exposed minnows swam less effectively. The chemical appears to function by impairment of the calcium dynamics required for communication between two proteins required for muscle contraction (Stromberg, 2012). In light of these and other findings indicating potential negative health impacts, the FDA is “reviewing all of the available evidence on this ingredient’s safety in consumer products” (Triclosan, 2012).

Thank you to OCEAN researcher Lauren Bamford 03/09/2013

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Works Cited

 Adolfsson-Erici, Margaretha. “Triclosan, a commonly used bactericide found in human milk and in the aquatic environment in Sweden.” Chemosphere 46 (2002): 1485-1489. Web. 9 March 2013.

Cherednichenko, Gennady. “Triclosan impairs excitation–contraction coupling and Ca2+dynamics in striated muscle.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America August (2012). Web. 9 March 2013.

Howes, D., Moss, T., and Williams, FM. “Percutaneous penetration and dermal metabolism of triclosan (2,4, 4'-trichloro-2'-hydroxydiphenyl ether).” Food and Chemical Toxicology April (2000). Web. 9 March 2013.

Levy, Colin W. “Molecular Basis of Triclosan Activity.” Nature 398 (1999): 383-384. Web. 9 March 2013.

Mcleod, R. “Triclosan inhibits the growth of Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii by inhibition of apicomplexan Fab I.” International Journal for Parasitology 31 (2) (2001): 109-113. Web. 9 March 2013.

Stromberg, Joseph. “Triclosan, A Chemical Used in Antibacterial Soaps, is Found to Impair Muscle Function.” Surprising Science. Smithsonian Mag., 13 August, 2012. Web. 9 March 2013.

“Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Updated 29 August 2012. Web. 9 March 2013.