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Study Finds Triclosan Concentrations Highest Among the Wealthy

(Beyond Pesticides, December 14, 2007) A study recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives has found concentrations of the antibacterial chemical triclosan in a high percentage of subjects tested. Used in common household products like plastics, personal care products, and textiles, exposure routes are becoming difficult to avoid. According to the report’s summary, “Concentrations differed by age and socioeconomic status but not by race/ethnicity and sex. Specifically, the concentrations of triclosan appeared to be highest during the third decade of life and among people with the highest household incomes.”

The study analyzed urine samples from 2,517 individuals, age 6 and over. Annual household income ranged from less than $5,000 to $75,000, and three major self-reported racial/ethnic groups were non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and Mexican American. Of the 2,517 urine samples, 74.6 percent contained triclosan. However, “the frequency of detection of triclosan varied by income group (63.7% [$20,000-$45,000]; 78.7% [<$20,000]; and 76.8% [>$45,000]).”

The report discussed the high levels of detection: “We detected concentrations of free plusconjugated species of triclosan in urine in 74.6% of the samples examined. This high frequency of detection is most likely associated with daily use by the US general population of consumer products that contain triclosan, including at least one toothpaste brand, skin-care products, and other household products . . . LSGM triclosan concentrations were significantly higher among people in the high household income category than among people in the medium (P=0.04) and low (P<0.01) income categories. These differences might reflect differences in lifestyle choices (e.g. use of personal care products) that affect exposure to triclosan."

As for the impact of age upon the study’s findings, “We observed a curvilinear-increased relation between age and triclosan LSGM concentration for ages 6 and older. For people 20 years and older, concentrations appeared to decline as age increases. These data suggest that the concentrations of urinary species of triclosan peak around the third decade of life and then slowly decrease. This relation between age and triclosan concentration is not clearly understood, and these differences might reflect differences in lifestyle choices affecting exposure and/or pharmacokinetic factors based on age.”

This study, conducted between 2003 and 2004, indicates high rates of exposure to triclosan, and show its ubiquitous nature in products many of us encounter on a daily basis. As the report concluded, “The reported high frequency of detection of triclosan and the differences in urinary concentrations based on age and socioeconomic status highlight the importance of additional research to identify the sources and potential pathways of human exposure to triclosan.”


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