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Antibacterials Pose New Dangers to Water Systems

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know about the exponental growth of antibacterial soaps and the danger they represent. The active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits bacterial growth. Not only does triclosan kill bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells.

What's more, using such products offer little protection against common germs negating their only "advantage" over non anti-bacterials.

Now there's a new reason to be concerned about the use of antibacterials: A toxic chemical used in hand soaps, cleaners and other personal care products to kill germs is deposited and remains in the environment long after the products are used, according to researchers.

The chemical, triclocarban (marketed under the trademark TCC?), is a non-agricultural polychlorinated phenyl urea pesticide that has been widely used for decades to kill bacteria. Researchers at Johns Hopkins were among the first to detect concentrations of triclocarban in rivers and influent of wastewater treatment facilities. In some instances, they detected concentrations of triclocarban in waterways at levels 20 fold higher than previously reported.

Their study showed environmental contamination with triclocarban is widespread but greatly underreported because conventional monitoring techniques cannot detect it. As a result, researchers developed a new method--liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC/ESI/MS)--to detect triclocarban in water. Using this new method, they found the disinfectant in all Maryland streams they examined.

Science Blog August 18, 2004

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