Researchers have shown that the chemical triclosan is particularly harmful to the ecological status of rivers and its use not sufficiently controlled. Triclosan is a common chemical added to hand sanitizers used in the home and in hospitals.
The scientists, based in Germany and Slovakia, studied the Elbe river basin and found concentrations of the chemical at numerous test sites. The levels exceeded recommended safety levels and had harmed for algal communities.
Scientists are concerned that triclosan is increasingly detected in organisms living in waste-water and also in human blood plasma and in breast milk. The harmful effects, beyond water, are unknown but represented a cause for concern.
Triclosan, an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent, has been on the market since 1972 and it was not until 1998 that the first serious ecological effects were discovered. As well as being used as a hand sanitizer, the chemical is used in some deodorants, toothpastes, mouth washes and to line sportswear. It is sold under several trade names, including UltraFresh, Amicor, and BioFresh
The scientists concluded that governments worldwide are not carrying out sufficient monitoring for triclosan and that the environmental and human impact is greater than previously thought.
Triclosan safety is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada. However, as the New York Times reports, the FDA review has been delayed several times.
The research was undertaken by the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research and the Environmental Institute in Slovakia and it has been published in an article titled “Triclosan—the forgotten priority substance?” in the journal Environmental Science Pollution Research.