Antibacterial Soap May Put Fetuses at Risk

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

A new study has found that exposure to environmental levels of common antibacterial chemicals found in numerous soaps and lotions may transfer from mother to child during pregnancy and may increase the risk for birth defects and other unwanted outcomes.

Scientist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) studied mice during gestation to find out whether exposure to triclocarban (TCC) would transfer from mother to offspring. The scientists gave TCC laced with carbon-14 to trace how the contaminant distributed in organ systems of female mice and their exposed offspring, reports the Daily Hornet.

Antibacterial Study Findings

“We demonstrated that TCC does effectively transfer from mother to offspring, both trans-placentally and via lactation,” said LLNL biologist Heather Enright, lead author of the study. “Exposure to TCC during development may pose a serious health risk to the developing embryo and fetus, as they are more sensitive to alterations in hormone levels, which may result in changes that often are irreversible.”

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The building blocks for the structure and function of living cells are made up of lipids that are molecules that contain hydrocarbons. Their main biological purpose is to store energy and act as structural components of cell membranes, the Daily Hornet reports.

Changes in gene expression in liver and adipose (fat) tissue in the exposed offspring was examined. The results showed that alterations in genes involved in lipid metabolism in exposed offspring were consistent with the observed increase in fat weights and hepatic (liver) triglycerides (the major form of fat stored by the body).

According to the researchers, these findings are significant because of the potential risk of exposure to TCC and the potential adverse effects of antibacterial soap or lotion during prenatal development. “Early life exposure to TCC has the potential to cause irreversible outcomes due to the fragile nature of organ systems and protective mechanisms in developing offspring,” concluded Enright.

Prior Studies

A report released in 2014 by the American Chemical Society (ACS), found that pregnant women and their fetuses were being exposed to antimicrobials, an agent that kills micro-organisms. “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 we took, which means it transfers to fetuses. Triclocarban was also in many of the samples,” said one of the researchers, Benny Pycke.

Researchers also found a link between women with high levels of butyl paraben, an antimicrobial found in many cosmetics, and shorter newborn lengths. The study added to previous research that proved antibacterial products could also cause bacterial resistance and a decrease in thyroid hormones, reports time.com.

Increased Awareness in Antibacterial Product Risks

Simply removing a few products from the market may not eliminate exposure to the injurious effects of antimicrobials. Scientists noted the ingredients are difficult to avoid because they are found in 2,000 products including paints, soaps, detergents, and toothpastes. At the very least, the ACS said the findings are alerting policymakers and increasing pressure on companies to remanufacture their products to remain on the market.

According to the Daily Mail in June 2017, a report published by over 200 scientists warned that antibacterial chemicals found in soap, lunchboxes and exercise mats could be causing harm. Previous experiments have shown that antibacterial chemicals used in household products are unable to kill off germs that cause harmful disease and plain soap and water may be far more effective.

Lack of Scientific Evidence for Antibacterial Product Benefits

Dr. Jane Woodcock, director of the FDA’s center for evaluation and research said, “Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.”

In 2016, the United States banned 19 different antibacterial chemicals, including triclosan and triclocarban, saying they were not effective at killing bugs. Using the chemicals may increase antibacterial resistance, which is known to make antibiotics less effective. British firm Unilever said it will phase out the two chemicals by the end of 2017, replacing them with “natural and nature-inspired” anti-microbes, according to the Daily Mail.

Legal Information Concerning Consumers

If you or someone you know has been injured by chemicals in consumer products, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman LLP offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).