That's a question being studied by a group of researchers at the University
of California, Davis. In three separate studies, the researchers showed that
the chemicals -- triclosan and triclocarban -- have potential to affect sex
hormones and interfere with the nervous system.
Dan Chang, PhD, a professor of environmental engineering at U.C. Davis and
one of the researchers involved, says he doesn't want to cause a panic, but
"the public should be aware of some of the concerns."
While Chang and the other researchers involved in the studies admit that
it's too early to know whether the chemicals pose a serious health risk, it's
already been shown that the cleaners might not work any better than
regular soap and water -- and may contribute to the rise of resistant bacteria.
So, they ask, why take the risk?
In October, the researchers will pose that question when they meet with
representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CDC, and some
of the product manufacturers to talk about what they view as a potential public
The stakes are high for the manufacturers: Antibacterial products account
for about $1 billion in sales annually. Triclosan is found in 76% of all liquid
soap sold in stores and is also added to toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics,
fabrics, and plastic kitchenware. Triclocarban is a common additive in
antibacterial bar soap and deodorant.
"These compounds should be voluntarily removed by consumer product
manufacturers," Chang tells WebMD, or at least, consumers should "be
provided precautionary information regarding their use."