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Widely Used Antibacterial Chemical May Impair Muscle Function 252

New submitter daleallan writes "Triclosan, which is widely used in consumer handsoaps, toothpaste, clothes, carpets and trash bags, impairs muscle function in animal studies, say researchers at UC Davis (abstract). It slows swimming in fish and reduces muscle strength in mice. It may even impair the ability of heart muscle cells to contract. The chemical is in everyone's home and pervasive in the environment, the lead researcher says. One million pounds of Triclosan is produced in the U.S. annually and it's found in waterways, fish, dolphins, human urine, blood and breast milk. The researchers say their findings 'Call for a dramatic reduction in use.' It's in my Colgate Total toothpaste, and in fact, preventing gingivitis is the only use that may be worthwhile, although this makes me think twice about continuing to brush with it." This isn't the first time Triclosan has been in the news over safety concerns.
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Widely Used Antibacterial Chemical May Impair Muscle Function

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  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:25AM (#40994695) Journal

    Need to stress this, Triclosan is not the only drug found in waterways

    A lot of other substances that human being are using ended up in waterways and they are having all types of side effects on ecology around us

    I read an article about 10 years ago that nano-silver particles that we human are using - to kill bacteria, -somehow entered the waterways and end up killing a lot of microbial lifeforms, and the chain reaction (according to the articles that i read, can't find the links to them anymore, sorry) was worrying

  • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:43AM (#40994775)

    there's lots of things which harm only some kinds of life.

    Your eyes are protected by Lysozyme: enzymes which attack bacteria but it doesn't harm your eyes.

    Lots of things are harmful to one organism and not another: Theobromine is deadly to dogs but fairly harmless to us except in extreme quantities because we have enzymes which can handle it.

    Oxygen will kill many types of bacteria but we need it to live.

    Many anti-bacterials are simply far far far less toxic to us than to bacteria so it's not that surprising but it makes an awful rule of thumb.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:59AM (#40994825)

    I've only had a quick scan through the article, but near the end it explicitly says:

    Our acute in vivo experiments were aimed at understanding mechanisms and potential risks, and therefore used an intraperitoneal route of exposure. However, the exposures tested here produced (triclosan) blood plasma concentrations consistent with levels found in some humans.

    So if I'm reading that right, the potential health risk depends on exactly who those "some humans" were, and if they were people who generally used triclosan products or if they were people injected with the stuff, which isn't really made clear.

    It also notes that triclosan *is* metabolised in the human body, but exactly how seems to be a bit murky. There's also a note that 95% of the compound seems to be bound by serum protein in blood, but their "results demonstrated that TCS disrupts skeletal (excitation–contraction coupling) even in the presence of excess serum protein".

  • by CSMoran ( 1577071 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @06:06AM (#40994849) Journal
    If you click to read the abstract (I know, bad etiquette), you'll find that it

    acutely depresses hemodynamics and grip strength in mice at doses 12.5 mg/kg

  • by FirephoxRising ( 2033058 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @06:35AM (#40994955)
    You should URGENTLY call poisons information if someone eats significant amounts of toothpaste. The Fluoride can and has killed people.
  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @08:23AM (#40995439) Homepage

    Death in 100% N2 would be via hypoxia - rather pleasant....

  • Re:Evolution (Score:3, Informative)

    by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @08:39AM (#40995547)

    One could say the same thing about MANY things that our lives depend on. Oxygen, water, amino acids, etc. Just because our bodies don't make it doesn't make it automatically harmful.

    I, for one, would like to see the concentrations of Triclosan used in this study compared against the average exposure concentration "in the wild".

    From the Abstract:

    TCS acutely depresses hemodynamics and grip strength in mice at doses ~12.5 mg/kg i.p., and a concentration ~0.52 uM in water compromises swimming performance in larval fathead minnow.

    Now, I am not a scientist, but shouldn't the second measurement be listed in ppm, not micrometers? I mean, who cares how many micrometers they put into the water if we don't know how much water they used? 0.52uM is a HUGE amount when mixed with an equal amount of water. it's nothing in a bathtub.

    Can a scientist type person please clarify this for the less-sciency of us?

    (Note: I had to change some of the symbols so that they would output clearly on /. the "~" replaces the stacked ">_" and the u replaces the greek symbol for "micro".)

  • Re:Evolution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @08:50AM (#40995615)

    the M in 0.52 uM is 1 mol/L so 0.52 umol/L :

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @09:04AM (#40995747)
    You would be better off giving it a grape or an onion. Chocolate is fairly weak in killing a dog than that of cocoa itself. An onion actually causes the blood cells in a dog to "pop" which means a deader dog in a shorter time.
  • by daleallan ( 1543693 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @09:17AM (#40995865)
    The industry responded today with this, saying the research distorts the real world use of triclosan based on faulty comparisons to overdosed test subjects : http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/research-on-key-antibacterial-ingredient-distorts-real-world-use-166179966.html [prnewswire.com]
  • Re:Evolution (Score:5, Informative)

    by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @09:36AM (#40996049)

    In context.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22885664 [nih.gov]

    Urinary levels of bisphenol A, triclosan and 4-nonylphenol in a general Belgian population.

    'Geometric mean concentration was determined for bisphenol A at 2.55ug/l and for triclosan at 2.70ug/l'

    Now, Triclosans molar mass is around 300.
    0.52uMol/l is therefore 300 times this - 150ug/l.
    So, this is lots higher - 50 times - that in the general population.
    (Assuming urine and blood are of similar concentration, I can find no papers on this in 2 mins)

    However, 50* is not a stupid amount to exceed dosages by, especially given that it's likely that some humans will exceed the average by at least 5 times.

  • Re:Evolution (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @10:15AM (#40996425) Journal

    Can a scientist type person please clarify this for the less-sciency of us?

    uM is micromolar, not micrometer. Micrometer is um. Molarity is a a unit of concentration where 1M is one mole of a substance per liter. A mole is the number of atoms of a substance it takes for the actual weight to match the molecular weight. e.g. The molecular weight of an oxygen molecule (O2) is twice the molecular weight of oxygen(2x16=32). So one mole of O2 weighs 32g.

    The actual numerical value of the mole is avogadro's number(6.02x10^23), but it's not really necessary to work with the actual number when you're doing concentration calculations like this.

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @11:12AM (#40997103) Homepage Journal

    Effective against us. It likely kills people indirectly.

    There is a huge, symbiotic [wikipedia.org], non-human, microbial biomass [mpkb.org] that make our lives possible.

    These microbes outnumber us, in our OWN bodies. They are how we digest our food, repel destructive invaders, regulate enzyme levels - and are likely involved in our psychological disposition.

    The fact is, we know almost nothing about this - just the tip of an iceberg. Science and Medicine are just getting past the primitive, binary thinking that sterile systems are healthiest. Killing ALL the bacteria in your mouth? Health complications emerge when you lose the phages that destroy actually harmful bacteria.

    Poisoning this has a potential for huge, uncalculated consequences. And merely brushing your teeth with this stuff trickles a little dose of triclosan into your tract, two or three times a day.

    I think that it would be interesting to study the correlation between triclosan exposure and the obesity epidemic.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"