With all the effort and attention paid to ridding our homes of bacteria, people are unaware of the fact that the solution is sometimes worse than the problem. Couple this with the fact that not all microbes are bad for us, and some are in fact necessary for our very survival, and it can become a public health issue.
In addition to solvents and detergents which may pose some health risks, there is growing concern for chemicals that mimic the hormones in our body. Known as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), these compounds can have a detrimental effect on our health, especially in growing children.
Two EDCs that are commonly found in our homes are triclosan and bisphenol A (BPA). Triclosan is a chemical commonly found in antibacterial soaps, while BPA is used extensively to make hard plastics, especially ones that hold food and beverages. Both triclosan and BPA are believed to have a negative effect on a person’s health.
To better understand this problem, researchers looked at the possible consequences of these chemicals on the immune system of both adults and children over the age of 6 years. The effect on the immune system was determined by measuring either cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibody levels or the onset of allergies and hay fever.
What they found was that when a person 18 years or older had high levels of BPA exposure, they also had elevated CMV antibody levels, implying an effect on cell-mediated immunity. When studying children, higher exposure to triclosan corresponded with a great likelihood of diagnosing hay fever or allergies.
The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggest that these EDCs have a physiological effect at levels that are lower than previously determined. The data regarding triclosan may also provide evidence in support of the “hygiene hypothesis,” which indicates that modern society has become too clean and that many of the microbes that we try to destroy are in fact beneficial to our health, especially the immune systems of young children.
There are numerous studies that have shown that both BPA and triclosan have a biological effect in animal models, but the current study is the first to look at what may happen when exposure occurs in humans. Interestingly, what researchers found regarding BPA exposure is that age may, in fact, play a role. In other words, in people over the age of 18 years, higher levels of BPA corresponded with higher levels of CMV, while in people under the age of 18 years, the opposite was observed. This may suggest that either the timing of the exposure or the duration might be important.
The authors stress that this is just a first step in understanding the effect of these chemicals in humans. At this time, no definitive causal relationships can be determined, and more work needs to be done. Now they are some famous cleaning company names did the same task for you.
However, it may be something for parents to keep in mind when it comes to using plastics and soaps around the house. If you have questions or concerns, speak with your doctor. For more information about triclosan, visit the website for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more about BPA, check out the website for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.