Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Triclosan Update

I've posted on my concern for triclosan-containing products before. I think far too much of it is being land applied in our biosolids:

It makes little sense to land apply recalcitrant compounds that needlessly get rid of soil microbes. Fomenting the growth of resistant strains of disease organisms is only one concern. Soil functional capacity is largely mediated by living processes. It is the height of folly to jeopardize those functions for a useless consumer item.
How much effect does it have on biosolids-applied soil? Probably it is only slight at any given site. It is the total mass involved and the extent of the impact that has me uncomfortable.

Being soil-aware, I have also come to appreciate that our skin, like soil, hosts a diverse population of bacteria that when in balance, works in our favor. Part of our disease protection comes from that community. If we kill off the easy ones, we are left with the toughs who can now move into the colonization sites left vacant. That's how it works on the skin of the earth, anyway. I'm not saying that we should avoid washing our hands, just that acting on simplistic thinking can expose us to risks greater than the ones we act to avoid.

For example, the latest concern with triclosan use is that when exposed to warm (100 deg F) tap water containing chlorine, a common scenario for use, it breaks down after less than a minute of exposure. The breakdown products include chemicals of concern to skin care including chloroform. This may better explain reports that triclosan-containing products induce dry skin, eczema, and, under conditions of high use (20-25 times per day), open sores. Open sores and a tough crowd of bacteria is not a good combination.

This observed rapid breakdown of triclosan does not negate previous observations of recalcitrance in the treatment process, in the soil, and in our waterways. The wastewater treatment processes that produce biosolids do not employ chlorine, or any equivalent chemical oxidizing agent. To shock the process with chlorine would kill the bugs doing the work.

I am sure there are some good uses for triclosan. Maybe a place in the acne control tool box is one. The majority of this product is sold for normal household use. The casual use of triclosan needs to end.

Image Source: Neil Duazo

1 comment:

Philip Small said...