Triclosan — a ubiquitous antibacterial chemical found in many soaps, toothpastes, and other consumer products — can contribute to an increased risk of allergy development in children, new research shows.
The study, led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, is the latest to raise concerns about triclosan, which is under review by U.S. regulators for its potential public health and environmental impacts.
Previous research, by University of California-Davis and the University of Colorado scientists, linked the chemical to health problems in laboratory tests involving animals, suggesting may do more harm than good, when it comes to public health and safety. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson said it plans to phase out its use of triclosan and other “chemicals of concern” in its consumer products by 2015.
The new Norwegian study found 10-year-old children with high levels of triclosan in their urine — from likely exposure to consumer products — had elevated rates of allergy and allergic symptoms of rhinitis (blocked nose/hay fever) in 10 year-olds. The study involved 623 Norwegian and American kids, whose samples were collected and measured at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. About 50 percent of the Norwegian children had detectable levels of the chemical in their urine; 80 percent of American children had measurable levels.
Researchers concluded triclosan can change the bacterial flora on the skin, in the mouth, and in the intestines — knocking down levels of "good" bacteria and resulting in an increased risk of developing allergies.
For years, Norwegian health officials have called for a reduction in the use of antibacterial products for public health reasons and to prevent the development of resistant bacteria. Since 2001, triclosan has been removed from a variety of Norwegian products. In the U.S., the researchers said there is little evidence that exposure to triclosan is being reduced.
The new The triclosan study was a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo University Hospital, and the U.S. National Institute of Health Sciences.