Experts are now saying that doctors should be warning pregnant moms against using antibacterial products. New research shows that antibacterial compounds can trigger developmental and reproductive problems in unborn children.

CBS news reports on the new data. 

The name of the chemical is ‘antibacterial triclosan’ and it was found in the urine of every pregnant woman who was tested. Another chemical known as triclocarban was also found in 85% of women surveyed.

While the potential harm to pregnant moms is upsetting enough, to compound that difficulty, researchers found that the danger also harmed the baby in the womb. Triclosan showed up in more than 50% of the samples of umbilical cord blood taken from the mothers in the study. This indicated that the chemical is reaching not all but some fetuses.

What are federal health officials saying?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of triclosan following many studies that proved the chemical can affect the way hormones function. Such interference, which is known as endocrine disruption, can potentially affect the development of an unborn fetus.

The study’s authors are professors at SUNY Downstate School of Public Health in New York. They say that Triclosan and triclocarban are used in more than 2,000 everyday consumer products, including toothpastes, soaps, detergents, carpets, paints, school supplies and toys. It will be difficult for pregnant moms to avoid them.

How do the chemicals act to hurt moms and fetuses? One of the study’s authors, Mrs. Geer said, “These compounds have endocrine-disrupting potential, and the fetus is particularly vulnerable during its development to hormonal changes.”

Many companies who sell toiletries and other products that use these chemicals are now trying to distance themselves from the chemicals. Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Avon issued a statement saying that they are trying to phase out the chemical from their products.

How was the study conducted?

“In this study, researchers took urine and cord blood samples from 184 pregnant women in Brooklyn, N.Y. They found levels of triclosan and triclocarban in nearly all the women tested. Researchers also found another antibacterial agent, butyl paraben, in a majority of urine and cord blood samples,” according to CBS.

What did the results show? There is a connection between butyl paraben, which is commonly used in cosmetics, and shorter lengths of newborns. If the research is authenticated in bigger studies, it will confirm the theory that widespread exposure to these compounds probably causes a small, but large-scale, shift in sizes of babies at birth.

Is it difficult to get these chemicals out of products?

All of the products are not of great benefit and can be easily taken out of products. Mrs. Gore, an expert and professor of toxicology and pharmacology at the University of Texas told CBS,

“The efficacy of these products as being helpful to human health has not been proven, but companies are adding them to products anyway. There's no downside to removing chemicals that have no proven benefit. The potential impact of these chemicals on unborn children is particularly troubling. During early development, very small amounts of hormone have very big effects on developmental processes. We know that development is such a vulnerable period for exposure to natural hormones. We know that hormones in the fetus and in the infant are really important for neurobiological development.”

What is the history of these chemicals?

How long have they been used? First it was classified as a pesticide in the 1960s, triclosan’s strong antimicrobial properties have made it a popular ingredient in the creation of antibacterial products. Today, triclosan and triclocarban can be sought out in thousands of over-the-counter products from soaps, body washes, laundry detergents to cosmetics and even many children’s products.

Dr. Pycke, a professor at the University of Arizona, issued a statement about one of the studies, which he was, involved in,

“We looked at the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used germ-killers in soaps and other everyday products. We found triclosan in all of the urine samples from the pregnant women that we screened. We also detected it in about half of the umbilical cord blood samples.”

Medical Daily also commented on the study.

Dr. Halden, who led the study, issued a statement saying, “While its true that the human body can flush out these compounds, constant exposure may still leave traces inside the body. "If you cut off the source of exposure, eventually triclosan and triclocarban would quickly be diluted out, but the truth is that we have universal use of these chemicals, and therefore also universal exposure.”

Due to the implications found by the study, many governments have planned to ban products that use these compounds in the near future. Minnesota actually became the first state to pass a ban on the use of antimicrobials in particular products. The ban is going to officially take effect in January of 2017.

Medical Daily reports, “Besides harming the human body, these dangerous compounds are no good for the environment either. Our ecosystem, especially lakes, accumulates large amounts of triclosan due to the release of sewage water. In turn, marine life is harmed.” Experts are urging physicians to mention the problem posed by these chemicals to pregnant moms so that they may be better informed and decide on their own whether they want to try to avoid these chemicals from harming them and/or their fetus.


Gerry Oginski
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