Monday, November 29, 2010

Being too clean can make young people sick

Environment News Service: Age seems to matter when it comes to the health effects of environmental toxicants. Young people who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may suffer more allergies, and exposure to higher levels of bisphenol A among adults may harm the immune system, a new University of Michigan School of Public Health study suggests.

Triclosan is a chemical compound used in products such as antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, pens, diaper bags and medical devices. Bisphenol A is found in many plastics and used as a protective lining in food cans. Both of these chemicals are in a class of environmental toxicants called endocrine disrupting compounds, which are believed to negatively impact human health by mimicking or affecting hormones.

Using data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, University of Michigan researchers compared urinary bisphenol A and triclosan with cytomegalovirus antibody levels and diagnosis of allergies or hay fever in a sample of U.S. adults and children over age six. Allergy and hay fever diagnosis and cytomegalovirus, CMV, antibodies were used as two separate markers of immune alterations.

"We found that people over age 18 with higher levels of BPA exposure had higher CMV antibody levels, which suggests their cell-mediated immune system may not be functioning properly," said Erin Rees Clayton, research investigator at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and first author on the paper. Researchers also found that people age 18 and under with higher levels of triclosan were more likely to report diagnosis of allergies and hay fever.

There is growing concern among the scientific community and consumer groups that these endocrine disrupting compounds are dangerous to humans at lower levels than previously thought….

A little compulsive handwashing from Lady Macbeth, painting by Gabriel Cornelius von Max, 1885

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