The Adverse Effects of Triclosan on the Environment

The Environmental Impact of Triclosan

It’s no secret that environmental pollution and contaminants can come from many different sources. But many people may not realize that ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products can harm the environment and the plants and animals living in it. Many ingredients in such products are questionable at best due to the adverse effects that they have on humans.

Triclosan, for example, has been linked to contact dermatitis and skin irritation in humans and has been implicated in the development of microbial resistance to antibiotic agents (source). In addition to these concerns, the use of triclosan in a range of consumer products is also having a negative impact on the environment.

WHAT IS TRICLOSAN AND WHY IS IT USED?

Triclosan was first registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide (source), and it continues to be classified as such today (source). While triclosan is regulated in many countries, this is not the case here in the U.S. (source).

In addition to being a pesticide, triclosan is also an antimicrobial agent that targets mainly bacteria, though it has some antifungal and antiviral properties as well. Introduced in the U.S. in the 1970s, triclosan was originally created for use in surgical scrubs in hospitals. Since that time, the use of triclosan in consumer products has exploded. It is now found not only in hand soaps, but also in other personal care products such as acne creams, cosmetics, deodorant, and toothpaste. It is also sometimes embedded into yoga mats, kitchen utensils, furniture, bedding, trash bags, and toys. And these are just a few examples! Triclosan is added to products with the goal of reducing or eliminating bacterial populations from the skin and various surfaces, but its use in personal care products means that some of it eventually ends up in our waterways.

There is evidence that some triclosan is absorbed into the body when applied on the skin in personal care products (it has been detected in human breast milk and urine). But triclosan found in soaps and toothpaste, for example, is easily washed down the drain and eventually makes its way to water treatment plants. The amount of triclosan that is removed from water at these facilities varies from plant to plant. While it is estimated that up to 95% of triclosan can be removed from wastewater (source), that still leaves 5% (or more) of it to enter our waterways. Once released into the environment, several key concerns come into play.

TRICLOSAN IN THE ENVIRONMENT

BREAKDOWN PRODUCTS

Triclosan has been found in both surface and wastewater. Once in these waters, triclosan may- when exposed to sunlight- break down, creating two types of dioxins, 2,8-DCDD and 2,4-DCP. Dioxins can be highly carcinogenic (source). There is also some evidence that triclosan may combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform, a probable human carcinogen (source). However, studies on this issue are conflicting, and further research is needed (source).

THE IMPACT OF TRICLOSAN ON PLANTS AND ANIMALS

In addition for the potential to form toxic breakdown products, triclosan has also been found to adversely affect various plant and animal species. Triclosan is highly toxic to algae; researchers in Japan have observed that at least one species of green algae is especially susceptible to the effects of triclosan. As they noted in the findings of a study, algae “are important organisms being the first-step producers in the ecosystem; therefore, the possible destruction of the balance of the ecosystem is expected if triclosan is discharged into the environment at high levels” (source). Because algae is so critical to the health of the ecosystems in which it grows, a threat to it represents a threat to many other organisms living in that same system.

Triclosan impacts animals as well. It has been found to disrupt the expression of certain genes in the North American bullfrog (source). And, as a lipophilic substance, triclosan can be absorbed into and stored in the fatty tissues and internal organs of fish, where it can interfere with various species’ hormonal and reproductive systems (sourcesource). The bioaccumulation of triclosan in some fish may also leave open the possibility for people to consume triclosan when eating them.

IS TRICLOSAN WORTH IT?

If triclosan was extremely effective at doing what it is intended to do, i.e. eliminating bacteria and lowering the rate of infections and illness, then maybe it would be worth using it in spite of the negative impact it often has. However, there is little evidence that people who regularly use antibacterial soaps are less likely to get sick than those who don’t use them. The FDA has stated that washing with soaps containing triclosan is no more effective than washing with regular soap and water: “the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water” (source). Furthermore, the American Medical Association does not endorse the need for or the efficacy of triclosan outside of health care settings or for persons with weakened immune systems. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not antibacterial soaps, but vigorous hand washing with plain soap for at least 10 seconds in order to remove germs (source). A lack of efficacy combined with the detrimental effects that triclosan can have on humans, aquatic plants, and some animals indicate that triclosan should be used judiciously and with caution. It may be appropriate for use in hospitals, for example, but the benefits of triclosan for household soaps have not been proven. Therefore, you can make a difference today for your local waterways and wildlife by ditching antibacterial soaps and opting for plain soap and water.


Sources:

Dann, AB, Hontela, A. “Triclosan: Environmental Exposure, Toxicity, and Mechanisms of Action.” PubMed. May 2011. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21462230

Hamblin, James. “The Ingredient to Avoid in Soap.” The Atlantic. 17 November 2014. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/forget-antibacterial-products/382832/

Mercola, Joseph. “Triclosan: The Soap Ingredient You Should Never Use — But 75% of Households Do.” Mercola.com. 29 August 2012. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/29/triclosan-in-personal-care-products.aspx

“Pesticide Registration Status.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 11 April 2016.

https://archive.epa.gov/pesticides/reregistration/web/html/status.html

Tatarazako, N, Ishibashi,H, Teshima, K, Kishi, K, Arizono, K. “Effects of Triclosan on Various Aquatic Organisms.” 2004 PubMed. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15746894

“Triclosan.” Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. January 2011. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://emerald.tufts.edu/med/apua/consumers/personal_home_21_4240495089.pdf

“Triclosan and Drinking Water.” Minnesota Department of Health, Environmental Health Division. August 2014. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/risk/guidance/dwec/triclosaninfo.pdf

“Triclosan: Environmental Fate and Effects.” Beyond Pesticides. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/antibacterials/triclosan/environmental-effects

“Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know.” Food and Drug Administration. Web. 11 April 2016.

http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm205999.htm

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The Effects of Microbeads on Water and Wildlife

The Effects of Microbeads on Our Water and Wildlife

 

The Effects of Microbeads on Our Water and Wildlife

The Effects of Microbeads on Water and Wildlife

I first wrote this article (under a different title) for the Verefina blog. Microbeads are causing major problems for our water and marine life, but they don’t have to. Read on to learn more about microbeads and how you can avoid them.

Microbeads are frequently added to products like soap, facial cleansers, and toothpaste. These tiny pieces of plastic (yes, plastic!) are used in products as exfoliants and are sometimes touted for their ability to deeply clean skin. Once they’ve served that purpose, though, microbeads accumulate in the environment and negatively impact wildlife and humans alike.

Where Do Microbeads Go When We’re Done with Them?

Microbeads are designed to go down the drain when these products are rinsed off, but their tiny size makes them nearly impossible to be filtered out at water treatment plants. So they make their way into waterways and are accumulating in our rivers, lakes, and oceans at staggering levels. The office of New York’s state’s attorney general recently reported that about 19 tons of microbeads are washing into that state’s wastewater every year (source). And a research team studying the Great Lakes a few years ago found an average of 17,000 bits of tiny plastic items per square kilometer in Lake Michigan (source).

A Threat to Animals and People

Once in waterways, microbeads pose a threat for marine life, and, eventually, for people. Microbeads can absorb and concentrate environmental pollutants, such as pesticides, making them far more toxic than the water around them. Aquatic animals may mistake microbeads for fish eggs or other food, and therefore consume them. In some cases, the pollutants that are absorbed into microbeads contain endocrine disruptors that may potentially affect the reproductive cycles of the animals that eat them. These toxins can gradually make their way up the food chain and can end up in the seafood that we eat. And in some cases, microbeads affect larger animals directly. The northern right whale, an already endangered species, may be exposed to these toxic plastics through filter-feeding.

Addressing the Problem of Microbeads

Concern over microbeads has been growing for several years, and some states have recently enacted legislation that would restrict the use of microbeads. Illinois, for example, has a law that requires companies to stop manufacturing products with microbeads by the end of 2018 and prohibits them from selling these products by the end of 2019. Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and Maryland also have laws that restrict the use of microbeads.

Some environmentalists argue that these laws do not go far enough because they leave open the possibility of using biodegradable- but minimally tested- alternatives. Polylactic acid, for example, can break down faster than other plastics, but only under high heat and other conditions not usually found in aquatic areas. “Everything on earth is biodegradable on a geologic time scale. It’s not biodegradable in a meaningful time frame,” says Stiv Wilson, an environmentalist and director of campaigns at the nonprofit group The Story of Stuff Project (source). Polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA, a naturally-occurring plastic produced by bacteria, is also being developed for use in personal care products. PHA can potentially break down in marine environments in about a month. But that’s assuming that marine animals don’t eat it first.

In response to the backlash to microbeads, some companies have stated that they will voluntarily remove the beads from their products. Johnson & Johnson, for example, says that it will discontinue the use of microbeads by 2017. L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble have announced that they are phasing out microbeads in their products, too.

What Can Consumers do NOW?

While these actions are a step in the right direction, the problem requires a greater sense of urgency. With an annual level of 19 tons of microbeads going into New York’s wastewater alone, we need to respond now. Companies may have several years before they are required to remove microbeads from their products, but consumers can start avoiding them today. Choose products that do not have polyethylene or polypropylene in the ingredient list. Or, better yet, opt for products that use all natural exfoliants, such as sugar, ground almonds, or oatmeal.

Microbeads are a threat to the health of both animals and people, but they don’t have to be. By avoiding products that contain microbeads and choosing natural exfoliants instead, consumers can send a message to companies that we don’t want plastic in our personal care products.

Verefina Products with Natural Exfoliants

Want to exfoliate naturally? These products are microbead-free:

Lemon Coconut Creamy Cleanser

Facial Masks

Sugar Scrubs

Sources:

Abrams, Rachel. “Fighting Pollution from Microbeads Used in Soaps and Creams.” The New York Times. 22 May 2015. Web. 15 September 2015.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/23/business/energy-environment/california-takes-step-to-ban-microbeads-used-in-soaps-and-creams.html?_r=1

Beck, Julie. “How Face Wash Pollutes Water.” The Atlantic. 17 June 2014. Web. 14 September 2015.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/how-face-wash-pollutes-water/372923/

Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads in Soap May Pose Problem for the Great Lakes.” National Public Radio. 21 May 2014. Web. 15 September 2015.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313157701/why-those-tiny-microbeads-in-soap-may-pose-problem-for-great-lakes

“Microbeads in the Great Lakes.” Watershed Council. Web. 14 September 2015.

http://www.watershedcouncil.org/microbeads.html

Warner, Kelsey. “What are Microbeads and Why is Canada Banning Them?” The Christian Science Monitor. 7 August 2015. Web. 14 August 2015.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2015/0807/What-are-microbeads-and-why-is-Canada-banning-them

 

Verefina Shea Butter Bar Soaps are Here

Verefina Shea Butter Bar Soaps

I’m excited to let you all know that Verefina’s Shea Butter Bar Soaps are now available. I’m currently using the Lavender Shea Butter Bar, and it is heavenly. Made with 100% natural ingredients, the Lavender Shea Butter Bar is scented with lavender essential oil  and is extremely moisturizing. I wrote about this new soap on Verefina’s blog a few weeks ago:

The Shea Butter Bar is made with a combination of carefully selected ingredients that soothe and protect the skin. Coconut oil and shea and cocoa butters moisturize the skin. These two butters also contain antioxidants that help heal damage caused by exposure to environmental toxins and the sun’s rays. Shea butter is a good source of vitamin A, a nutrient that can help address conditions such as blemishes, wrinkles, and dermatitis. Cocoa butter can aid healing of the skin, so it may help with problems such as dermatitis (source). Aloe vera juice contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that help nourish the skin.

Because the Shea Butter Bar Soap contains so many healing ingredients, it is also safe for use on skin affected by eczema, psoriasis, and rashes. And it is free of sulfates, which can cause these conditions to flare up. Using one of Verefina’s three lotions after washing with the Shea Butter Bar can help lock moisture into the skin and prevent irritation.

The Shea Butter Bar is also safe for use on infants and children. The Lavender or Unscented bars are best for little ones. Always be careful to avoid the eyes.

With so many benefits, the whole family will love Verefina’s new Shea Butter Bars.

Sources:

Callahan, Christy. “The Benefits of Pure Cocoa Butter.” LiveStrong. 16 August 2013. Web. 22 February 2015.

Photo curtesy of Verefina.

Verefina Easter Sale Going on Now!

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Verefina’s Easter Sale is underway! From now through April 5th, get 20% off all items for babies and kids and FREE shipping on ALL orders!

If you haven’t yet tried Verefina’s baby and kids products, now is a great time to do so. Like the rest of the Verefina line, products for kids are free of harmful ingredients, such as sulfates, artificial fragrances, and parabens. Their baby soap contains aloe vera juice to soothe and hydrate baby’s delicate skin. It is also made with a combination of plant oils that provide moisture and nutrients such as vitamin E. Verefina baby lotion is available in unscented and lavender, which is lightly scented with lavender essential oil. This gentle lotion moisturizes your baby’s skin with natural ingredients including aloe vera juice, apricot kernel oil, and calendula flower extract.

Verefina’s kids line includes soap, lotion, and lip balm. These products come in three fun scents that your kids will love: bubblegum, orange squeeze, and root beer.

Try Verefina’s baby and kids products at a discounted price right now and enjoy free shipping on ALL orders until April 5.

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Is Triclosan Safe or Effective?

Beauty and science

A couple of months ago I started writing for the Verefina blog. My posts appear every two weeks on the Verefina site. This past week, I wrote about triclosan, a synthetic antibacterial agent found in soaps, toothpaste, and even kitchen utensils and toys. This over-use of triclosan is negatively impacting human, animal, and environmental health in a number of ways. Learn more about triclosan in my post Is Triclosan Safe or Effective?

17 Days of Lucky Deals from Verefina

verefina_march-2015_125x125_1425226961Here’s some “lucky” news from Verefina!

Verefina is offering 17 days of lucky deals on their toxin-free, natural products just for you!

HOW IT WORKS:

Each day, beginning TODAY, check my Facebook page or visit Verefina for the deal of the day. If you see a deal you love — GRAB IT, because the exact same deal may not be offered again during our “Try Your Luck” promotion!

Each deal will end at 11:59 pm (Mountain Time) and a new deal will be offered for the next day! The last deal will be offered on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) along with a brand new, highly anticipated product!

And remember, now is a great time to get a jump start on your shopping for these upcoming holidays and events: Easter, Mother’s Day, and Graduations.

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