News / Health

Antibacterial Products Pollute Freshwater Lakes

Lake Huron in the U.S. state of Michigan (file photo).Lake Huron in the U.S. state of Michigan (file photo).
x
Lake Huron in the U.S. state of Michigan (file photo).
Lake Huron in the U.S. state of Michigan (file photo).
TEXT SIZE - +
Jessica Berman
So-called “antibacterial” products are everywhere today - in stores, homes and classrooms around the world - to reduce the spread of colds and other infections.  But a new study conducted in the United States has found that a chemical that gives soaps and hand creams their anti-germ properties is polluting freshwater lakes.  

The anti-bacterial agent triclosan was approved for use in the U.S. in 1964 and was added to consumer products in the 1970s.  Today, the disinfectant is in everything from soaps to laundry detergent, according to William Arnold, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“We are using a chemical to wash our hands, brush our teeth and the like that isn’t actually necessary for the function of these products, that’s now accumulating in the environment and having potential effects out there," said Arnold.

Researchers pulled core samples from the bottom of eight Minnesota lakes, looking for evidence of triclosan in the sediment that had built up on the lakebeds.

“And so what we found is the concentration of triclosan was zero before 1964, and that it had increased over time, largely during the 1980s, when antibacterial hand soap came to the market," he said.

As the use of antibacterial soaps became widespread, more and more triclosan was washed down the drain with waste water, so the most recent sediments show the highest levels of the chemical.

Researchers say three chemical derivatives of triclosan are produced when the antibacterial agent is mixed with chlorine during the water purification process.  And when triclosan and those derivatives are exposed to sunlight, they produce dioxin compounds.  Arnold notes that dioxins harm the environment and get into the food chain, beginning with algae in lakes.

“People often think of algae on the lake - that’s bad - but algae are a very important component in the food chain," said Arnold. "And so if you disrupt that, that’s problematic.  Triclosan is also known to make its way into fish via bioaccumulation, and so we expect these other compounds would do the same thing.”

Arnold says triclosan and its associated chemicals can build up in the ocean, as well as in freshwater lakes.

U.S. regulators have found no evidence that triclosan is any more effective than regular soap and water at killing germs, although as an ingredient in toothpaste it can reduce the risk of gum disease.  The Canadian government, however, has started regulating the chemical.

An article by the University of Minnesota’s William Arnold and colleagues on the discovery of the antibacterial agent triclosan in U.S. lakes is published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.  

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid