A Cleaner Plague

Two common antimicrobial chemicals disrupt the human body’s normal regulatory processes.

Have you had your daily minimum requirement of triclosan today? How about your dose of triclocarban?

Chances are you have, but don’t know. These two antimicrobial chemicals disrupt the human body’s normal regulatory processes.

Animal testing shows that these chemicals can be linked to the scrambling of hormones in children, disruption of puberty, inhibition of reproductive system development, decreases in thyroid hormone levels that affect brain development, and other serious health problems.

Yet corporations have slipped them into all sorts of consumer products, promoting them with a blitz of advertising campaigns that claim the antibacterial ingredients prevent the spread of infections.

Both of these chemicals were originally meant for use by surgeons to cleanse their hands before operations. That niche application has now proliferated like a plague, constantly exposing practically everyone to small amounts here, there, and everywhere, adding up to dangerous mega-doses.

Triclosan and triclocarban were first mixed into soaps, but then — boom — brand-name corporations went wild, putting these hormone disrupters into about 2,000 products, including toothpaste, mouthwashes, fabrics, and (most astonishingly) even into baby pacifiers.

Today, the chemicals are so prevalent that they can be found in the urine of three-fourths of Americans. They also accumulate in groundwater and soil, so they saturate our environment and eventually even us. One study found them in the breast milk of 97 percent of women tested.

For decades, corporate lobbying and regulatory meekness let this chemical menace spread. But now the Food and Drug Administration is finally questioning the use of triclosan and triclocarban.

For more information and opportunities to take action, visit the Natural Resources Defense Council website: www.nrdc.org.