Triclosan has already been banned in body washes, bar soaps, and hand sanitizers.
Triclosan, the chemical in consumer goods that was banned from hand sanitizers, may be linked to osteoporosis.
That’s according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Triclosan is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that was used as an antibacterial agent in products such as soap, mouthwash, and toothpaste.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned it from certain body washes and bar soaps. The FDA also issued a ban this year on the chemical in over-the-counter hand sanitizers.
Other studies have shown a link between endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs) and osteoporosis, but no study to date looked at triclosan, said Yingjun Li, PhD, a faculty member at the Hangzhou Medical College School of Public Health in China and one of the recent study’s authors.
Her team examined data from 1,848 premenopausal and postmenopausal women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Women with higher levels of triclosan in their urine were more likely to have bone issues, the researchers stated.
Li noted that their research is preliminary.
“We used a cross-sectional design, which wasn’t suitable to establish cause-and-effect relationships,” she told Healthline. “We can’t say triclosan exposure will cause osteoporosis.”
Li plans to study the association further.
The researchers noticed a significantly elevated prevalence of osteoporosis only in the intertrochanter, an area of the femur.
Li said that correlates with the fact that maximal reduction in bone mass density occurred in the intertrochanter.
“This may indicate that triclosan exposure has more influence on the intertrochanter than other regions on the femur. However, no mechanistic studies supporting our hypothesis were found for now,” she said.
It’s still unclear how triclosan use could lead to osteoporosis.
But Dr. Elena A. Christofides, an endocrinologist from New York City, believes triclosan is linked to calcium leeching from the body — something known to cause osteoporosis.
“There are numerous cases of chemical compounds displacing calcium during digestion or in the kidneys,” Christofides told Healthline.
“We already knew that triclosan is an endocrine disruptor hormonally. Now we can add it to the list for structural disruption as well,” she added.
Research on triclosan suggests that it may have several mechanisms of action, including hormone receptors or enzymes involved in steroid metabolism, said Andrea C. Gore, PhD, a professor and chair of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin.
More research is needed to determine what the dominant mechanism may be in relationship to bone health. There’s a lack of knowledge on EDCs and their effects on bone health, Gore said.
“Osteoporosis is a complex disorder and involves many factors, among which environmental EDCs such as triclosan might be one,” she said.
The increase in human EDC exposure over the past half-century has been paralleled by increases in chronic, age-related endocrine diseases, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and now possibly osteoporosis as well, Gore said.
There’s no way of knowing if the women with higher triclosan in their urine at the time of study also had higher exposures earlier in life. This is something that should be considered in future research, Gore added.
This latest study adds to existing evidence showing harm from triclosan exposure and underlines the need for precaution, said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director at Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit organization.
“There’s no good reason to utilize products with triclosan in them. It offers no advantage over traditional methods of cleansing,” Christofides said.
She noted that triclosan is still on the market in some products, such as certain toothpastes.
Rolf Halden, PhD, a professor and director of the Arizona State University Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering who has studied the chemical, said the study provides “cautionary data on yet another potential adverse health outcome from exposure to the overused antimicrobial triclosan.”
To limit your exposure, Halden said don’t use toothpaste that contains triclosan, and avoid antimicrobial products that have the chemical in them. These include fabrics, kitchenware, office and school supplies, as well as carpets and workstation surfaces.