Study Finds People Can be "Too Clean"
November 29, 2010 2:42 PM
Using antibacterial soaps with triclosan excessively can cause immune system problems in those under 18
Researchers at the
University of Michigan
have discovered that an overexposure to triclosan in young people and an overexposure to Bisphenol A in adults can have
negative health effects
on the human body.
Allison Aiello, study leader and associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health, along with Erin Rees Clayton, co-author of the study at the U-M School of Public Health, have found that triclosan, which is found in antibacterial soaps, may
in young people while Bisphenol A, which is found in most plastics, can harm the adult immune system.
Previous research associated with triclosan and Bisphenol A has been conducted on animal models, but this is the first study to show how both toxicants influence human function.
Triclosan and Bisphenol A belong in a class of environmental toxicants called endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) and can imitate or affect
causing negative health risks in humans. Bisphenol A can be found in plastics and protective linings in food cans, and triclosan can be found in antibacterial soaps, medical devices, toothpastes, pens and diaper bags.
The U-M researchers came to the conclusion that both triclosan and
Bisphenol A can negatively affect
the human body by utilizing data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Aiello and Rees Clayton compared cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibody levels and diagnosis of allergies/hay fever with urinary Bisphenol A and triclosan in a sample that consisted of U.S. adults and children over the age of six.
The results showed that people over the age of 18 with higher levels of Bisphenol A had increased CMV antibody levels. Rees Clayton said that this indicates that the person's "cell-mediated immune system" may not be working correctly.
In addition, Aiello and Rees Clayton found that those under the age of 18 with high levels of triclosan had an increased risk of developing allergies or hay fever.
"The triclosan findings in the younger age groups may support the 'hygiene hypothesis,' which maintains living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our exposure to micro-organisms that are beneficial for development of the immune system," said Aiello.
Aiello also noted that people can be too clean. Using an excessive amount of antibacterial soaps with triclosan during childhood can change the way our immune systems develop by altering the micro-organisms we're normally exposed to.
Another finding showed that Bisphenol A exposure
depends on age
. Those over 18 who had higher Bisphenol A levels also had high CMV levels, but for those under 18, the opposite occurred. Researchers believe this means that the timing, quantity and length of exposure determines how the immune system is influenced by Bisphenol A.
The only issue with this study is that it measured exposure and disease at the same time, which shows only part of the overall picture.
"It is possible, for example, that individuals who have an allergy are more hygienic because of their condition, and that the relationship we observed is, therefore, not casual or is an example of reverse causation," said Aiello.
The U-M researchers hope to use this study to continue learning the long-term effects of triclosan and Bisphenol A in humans to see if they can develop a "causal relationship."
was published in
Environmental Health Perspectives
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