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Your Environment. Your Health.

Antibacterial Agents

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

September 20, 2016

Washing hands with soap
Did you know that some products claiming to kill germs may actually be harming your health? The antibacterial agents triclosan and triclocarban are common in consumer products, such as soap, lotion, and toothpaste. But a growing body of research shows these antibacterial agents are linked to many adverse health effects, including endocrine disruption and antimicrobial drug resistance. In this podcast with Rolf Halden, we discuss what the science is telling us about the impacts of triclosan and triclocarban, the recent FDA decision to ban their use in hand and body washes, and what consumers need to know.
Rolf Halden

Expert

Rolf Halden, Ph.D., P.E., is a professor at Arizona State University (ASU) in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment as well as Founding Director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security, the Human Health Observatory (HHO), and the National Sewage Sludge Repository at the ASU Biodesign Institute.

Halden is a noted expert in determining where in the environment mass-produced chemicals wind up, their impact on human health, and how to remove them from contaminated water resources, aquifers and agricultural soils. Toxins of interest include dioxins, anti-bacterial products, pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), organohalides, problematic plastics and their additives, as well as pesticides – all having potential health impacts, including adverse birth outcomes, inflammation and increased risk of cancer.

He has provided scientific updates on environmental and human health concerns linked to antimicrobial agents to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Academies, and U.S. Congress.

For More Information

FDA Ruling on Triclosan
Learn about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) final rule (issued on September 2, 2016), removing triclosan and triclocarban from over-the-counter antibacterial hand and body washes.

CDC – Wash Your Hands
On this website, learn about the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on handwashing, and the science behind these recommendations.

NIEHS Endocrine Disruptors Page
Learn how endocrine disruptors contained in some common personal care and household products can affect your health.

NIH Fact Sheet on Antimicrobial Resistance
Through this NIH fact sheet, you can learn how antimicrobial resistance is making it harder to eliminate infections from the body.

EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
Explore the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) searchable database of toxic ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products. Look up a product or ingredient to find health information about the chemicals in more than 69,000 personal care products.

Silent Spring Institute: In Your Personal Care
Get tips to reduce your exposure to chemicals in personal care products from this website maintained by the Silent Spring Institute.

Household Products Database
Browse the National Library of Medicine’s Household Products Database for information about the ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban, used in major brands of personals care products.

Related Environmental Health Chat Episodes:

The Microbiome
Listen to this PEPH podcast to learn how microbes living on and inside of our bodies—the microbiome—impacts our health in myriad ways.

Household Chemicals
In this podcast, learn about how exposure to the ingredients in many household chemicals can be hazardous to your health.

Chemicals in Personal Care Products Podcast
Listen to this PEPH podcast about some common chemicals found in personal care products and new research about how they might affect our health.

We want your feedback!

Send comments, questions, and suggestions for future podcast topics to podcast@niehs.nih.gov .