Web Zap*Germs Archive

May 12, 2006

Triclosan Antibacterial Additive Spreading To Water & Farms

The antibacterial ingredient triclosan -- now added to nearly everything, from hand soap to toothpaste and cloth -- has been found to survive processing in water-treatment plants. It's also been detected in processed-sewage sludge (aka biosolids) spread as fertilizer in farmers' fields. (For some background, read my earlier discussion of the triclosan controversy.)

That means the microbe-killing activity of triclosan -- and triclocarban (TCC), a related chemical -- doesn't stop when we wash our hands with antibacterial soap. It keeps working, in the water and in the soil.

Here are the question product-manufacturers must answer -- and they should fund at least some of the research to find the answers:

1) what effects will the widespread propagation of these chemicals have on the natural microbial populations of water and soil?

2) is exposure to triclosan and triclocarban causing the development of new types of antibiotic-resistant microbes?

3) Are these chemicals killing helpful and necessary bacteria in water and soil, thereby disrupting ecosystem balance?

Regarding the presence of triclosan and TCC in sewage sludge, Chemical & Engineering News recently posted this:
Reflecting a growing concern about what happens to ingredients in pharmaceuticals and personal care products that go down the drain, the Environmental Protection Agency plans this summer to conduct a nationwide survey of sewage sludge that will look for the presence of 20 analytes. TCC and the related antibacterial agent triclosan are not now among them, notes Rick Stevens, national biosolids coordinator for EPA's Office of Water. "We haven't finalized the list, and we might add them," he says.

HT: (note their "For the Record" correction of factual errors in the original article.)


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