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Triclosan in waterways leads to boom in resistant bacteria, study claims

October 15, 2013
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A common antibacterial compound used in a number of consumer products, such as liquid soaps, toothpastes and shower gels, is contributing to the boom in growth of resistant bacteria in waterways across the United States, a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology reveals.

The ingredient, known as triclosan, is found in about half of all liquid soaps sold in the United States. It can enter rivers and streams through domestic wastewater systems, sewer overflows or leaky infrastructure. The antibacterial compound is commonly found in U.S. waterways, the study found.

Lead researcher Emma Rosi-Marshall, with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., explained that the presence of triclosan in waterways not only changes native bacterial communities but also contributes to an increase in the number of resistant bacteria, potentially leading to many antibiotics becoming less effective.

RELATED: FDA could face legal action over triclosan review

Questions over the safety of chemical substances and their impact on the environment have been raised for a long time, with campaigners calling for manufacturers to phase out the use of potentially dangerous substances. In a bid to reduce the effect of hazardous chemicals, major retailers have already announced actions to deal with the issue.

Last week, Procter & Gamble said it was going to stop using triclosan and hormone-like phthalates in its products. Johnson & Johnson did the same last year, adding formaldehyde and parabens to the list of substances to be dropped from production. The largest U.S. retailer, Wal-Mart, claimed that as of January 2014 it will require all suppliers to gradually phase out the use of 10 hazardous chemicals.

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