The chemical triclosan, found in many household products including antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpaste and some cosmetics, may weaken women’s bones and could lead to osteoporosis, a new study has found.
Triclosan is used to kill bacteria, but the FDA said studies suggested the chemical can cause a decrease in some thyroid levels and possibly make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Concern over the safety of the chemical prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016 to ban its use in antiseptic wash products. But the chemical can still be found in several products as well as clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys – products not regulated by the FDA.
The latest study, led by Yingjun Li with Hangzho Medical College School of Public Health in China, expanded on previous research that showed triclosan can affect bone mineral density in the cells of laboratory animals. Li’s research suggests the chemical could have the same effect on humans.
For the study, Li collected data on about 1,900 women from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and found that women who had high levels of triclosan in their urine were more likely to have weakened bones. And while the study doesn’t draw a definitive line between triclosan and weakened bones, it does add to concerns about the chemical, especially since it is still readily used in dozens of products sold in the U.S.
The FDA says there are ongoing studies investigating the safety of triclosan, but if consumers are concerned, they can avoid products that contain the chemical. Antibacterial soaps and body washes, and fluoride toothpastes are considered over-the-counter drugs and as such, if they do contain triclosan, it should be noted on the ingredient listing of the product, the FDA said.