Is your hand soap contaminating dolphins?
The answer is probably yes, if you live along the coast where bottlenose dolphins swim, according to a new study.
Researchers, according to a synopsis in Environmental Health News, tested dolphins in South Carolina and Florida waters, and found triclosan, an antibacterial agent, in the blood of bottlenose dolphins.
How could this be? The waters tested have sewage plants, and the water flowing out of our pipes is laced with triclosan. It's found in a variety of products: antibacterial soaps, most notably, but also in personal care products, socks, cutting boards, garbage bags and other products -- any product that a manufacturer sees benefits by killing bacteria to reduce odor or increase shelf life.
When it comes to soap, experts agree that vigorously washing with regular soap and warm water for enough time to sing the "ABCs" is more effective than using a chemical to kill bacteria, and has none of the unintended side effects. Those unintended side effects, in addition to contaminating dolphins, including contaminating other marine life and helping bacteria to evolve resistance to antibiotics. Studies have found that it accumulates in the human body, too, and is found in most Americans at about the same level it was found in dolphins. It may be an endocrine disrupting chemical, meaning it mimics human hormones and may contribute to a variety of diseases and health issues.
How much of a health risk is the chemical? That remains unclear, whether you're talking about dolphins or humans. But anytime you have a manmade chemical building up in the bodies of living things, it's cause for concern. It's getting harder and harder to find hand soap that doesn't include an antibacterial chemical, but if you can find one, choose it.
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