As in the human population, triclosan is also pervasive inthe environment.
Triclosan has made its way fromthe store, to our homes, down the drain, and into our
water and wildlife. Previous research identied triclosanin drinking water, surface water, algae, sh and earth
New data reveal an even more soberingpicture of triclosan’s impact on the environment, and thefood chain.
“. . . triclosan is found in nished drink
-ing water, surface water, wastewater, and environmental sediments, as well as in
the bile of wild sh, indicating extensive
contamination of aquatic ecosystems.”
Pesticides like triclosan are highly toxic to algae and othermicroorganisms.
A 2010 study tested the effects of triclo-san on naturally occurring bacterial communities. The re-sults indicate that even at low levels, triclosan can reducephotosynthesis in a type of algae known as diatoms.
It isthrough the process of photosynthesis that diatoms gener-ate the oxygen and nourishment other aquatic life need tosurvive.
Though triclosan may be more toxic to algae, it can affecthigher forms of aquatic life. In 2010, Japanese researchersdesigned a study to determine the impact of triclosan on
the eating and swimming habits of medaka sh. Althoughtriclosan did not signicantly impact eating behaviors, it
did slow swimming speed.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s2009 Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, triclosanwas detected in 92 percent of sewage sludge samples col-lected from across the United States.
Of the chemicalsused in personal care products, triclosan was the secondmost common contaminant; triclocarban was the mostcommon contaminant. A 2010 study conducted by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture conrms that triclosan in
sewage sludge degrades slowly and persists in the environ-ment at low levels.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 pounds of triclosan
are spread on U.S. agricultural elds as sludge each year.
Until recently, scientists had speculated that triclosan couldcontaminate agricultural crops that had been “fertilized”
with sludge. New research conrms that crops can readily
absorb triclosan from sludge. Researchers simulated sludgeapplication and recycled wastewater irrigation on soybeancrops. They found that the root systems absorbed triclosanfrom both the sludge and wastewater. Moreover, triclosanmigrated to other parts of the plant, including the beans.
Numerous studies have shown that when triclosan-con-taminated surface waters are exposed to sunlight, triclosancan produce a suite of toxic byproducts.
In 2010,University of Minnesota scientists found that as concentra-tions of triclosan in sediment increased, so did the levelsof four dioxins derived from triclosan. While levels of allother dioxins have dropped by 73 to 90 percent over thelast 30 years, the levels of these four triclosan-associateddioxins have risen by 200-300 percent.
This is especiallyconcerning given that dioxins are known carcinogens. TheUnited Nation’s Stockholm Convention includes dioxins inits list of the 12 most toxic chemicals, known as the
Triclosan is everywhere. It is in our homes and in our bod-ies. And triclosan is just one of the hundreds of chemicalswe come into contact with and absorb every day. Theprecise consequence of carrying around an individualchemical like triclosan is uncertain. But from what we haveseen in peer-reviewed studies, triclosan has the potential todisrupt hormones, interfere with normal fetal development,increase risk for antibiotic-resistant superbugs and affectevery segment of the food chain. Scarier still, we don’tknow the long-term effects of carrying around the mixtureof chemicals present in our bodies.One thing that is certain is that infants and children areexposed to triclosan before they even come into this world.It is unacceptable that they are subjected to potential harmwhen products containing triclosan are no more effectivethan products made without it. For every “antibacterial”product on the market, there is an equally effective andsafer alternative. Triclosan is one chemical that could, andshould, be eliminated from our shelves and our bodies.
About Food & Water Watch
Food & Water Watch is a nonprot consumer organiza
-tion that works to ensure clean water and safe food in theUnited States and around the world. We challenge the cor-porate control and abuse of our food and water resourcesby empowering people to take action and by transformingthe public consciousness about what we eat and drink.