I dare you to walk into the restroom of most medical facilities and turn around the handsoap to look at the ingredients. More often than not tricolosan, an antibacterial, is listed as the active ingredient. Is this trivial? Does the fact that triclosan is often listed as a endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) really matter? Or can we ignore these difficult to pronounce chemicals?
Two recent pieces of data suggest triclosan and other EDCs are an important factor in the health of our nation. The first was a recent research study on the relationship between calorie intake, activity and obesity.
The findings were that for a given amount of calorie intake, constitution of food eaten in terms of nutrients, and physical activity, weight was up in 2006 compared to 1988. The headlines read "it is harder to lose weight now than ever" and the authors speculated that shorter sleep durations and more exposure to environmental chemicals such as EDCs and persistent organic pollutants may be to blame.
The second report highlighting EDCs came from the Endocrine Society, a highly respected medical group. This scientific analysis of experimental and human data concluded that there is strong mechanistic evidence for EDCs playing a role in obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, thyroid disease, prostate cancer, and development of the brain. The recognition from a major academic group that our "environment" matters is a significant step forward in battling the rising rates of chronic disease.
The basic steps to health promotion remain a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, regular physical activity and standing, approximately seven to eight hours of sleep, and avoidance of smoking. After we master those foundational habits, it may just be worth turning around the soap bottle in your bathroom and kitchen and investigating your exposure to EDCs. A resource I use is the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) which provides information and alternatives to personal use products manufactured with EDCs.