According to recent research, a common chemical in household products called triclosan, may promote colon cancer after preliminary studies.
Triclosan contains antibacterial and antifungal properties which makes it useful in household products like toothpastes, detergents, soaps, and mouthwashes. Triclosan has grown in popularity to become one of the most widely used ingredients since 1964.
Triclosan is now added to a range of items, such as toys, bedding, and socks to slow down the buildup of bacteria and fungi.
Although generally considered safe, the chemical has become disturbingly universal. A study run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 75 percent of the urine samples they tested contained triclosan.
The compound has also been found in blood plasma and breast milk and is known to be widely distributed throughout the rivers, streams, oceans, and reservoirs.
Because of its latent role in antimicrobial resistance and endocrine disruption, and its theoretical effects on the immune system, it has been considered a contaminant by the United States Geological Survey.
A study, published recently in the journal Science Translational Medicine, tested whether triclosan might have any negative effects on gut health. The scientists were led by Guodong Zhang, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They used a mouse model for the research.
They tested the impact of small doses of triclosan on a range of mouse models. The scientists gave each mouse model a brief, low-level exposure to triclosan.
They discovered that in all mouse models used, triclosan incited inflammation of the colon, worsened symptoms of colitis (inflammation of the lining of the colon), and promoted colitis-associated tumor growth.
Some models were particularly sensitive. Co-author Hang Xiao explains, We used a genetically engineered mouse model which develops spontaneous inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.”
READ ALSO: Why Brushing Before Breakfast Is Better
“Treatment with triclosan significantly increased disease development of IBD in the mice, suggesting that IBD patients may need to reduce exposure to this compound, Xiao stated.”
The mechanism behind the damage
The scientists also wanted to understand exactly why triclosan appeared to have this pro-tumor, pro-inflammation effect. They establish that triclosan changed the composition of the gut microbiome expressively. This effect has previously been established in humans, too.
They also showed that triclosan did not have adverse health effects in mice without a microbiome. To further support this discovery, they demonstrated that genetically modified mice who lacked toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) did not experience the adverse effects.
This is important because TLR4 is known to play an important role in communication between gut bacteria and their host.
Taken together, these findings surmise a role for gut bacteria in the destructive effect of triclosan on colon health.
Because this compound is so widely used, our study suggests that there is an urgent need to further evaluate the impact of triclosan exposure on gut health in preparation for the potential establishment of further regulatory policies.