Exposure to triclocarban — a chemical commonly found in antibacterial soaps — results in drastically shorter lives and/or death, for the female offspring of individuals that were exposed to the chemical while nursing, a new study done on rats has found.
The chemical is a very commonly-used one — found in most antibacterial soaps, in many personal care products, and in many other antibacterial products. A very large proportion of the public is regularly exposed to triclocarban, according to the study’s lead author, Rebekah Kennedy, a graduate student in the Department of Public Health at the University of Tennessee.
“Our study provides supporting evidence for the potential adverse effects of triclocarban exposure during early life, specifically during the lactation period,” Kennedy stated. “The results indicate that a mother’s long-term use of this compound might affect the early development of her offspring, at least according to our animal model.”
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In this study, the researchers sought to learn if exposure to the same compound, either in the womb or during lactation, would affect rat pups.
Beginning on pregnancy day 5 and continuing until 21 days after giving birth, maternal rats continuously had free access to regular rat chow (the control rats) or chow supplemented with either 0.2% or 0.5% triclocarban. The doses found in the blood of maternal rats exposed to triclocarban correspond to blood levels of triclocarban in humans after a 15-minute whole-body shower using a bar soap containing 0.6% triclocarban, Chen said.
After birth, some littermates were moved to other groups so that each rat mother nursed two of her own pups and two pups from each of the other two groups. The offspring were weighed daily.
Body weight did not differ at birth among rat pups from the three groups, but by day 3, pups nursed by control rats were heavier than either triclocarban-exposed group, Kennedy reported. Pups nursed by rats that received 0.2% triclocarban were about half as heavy at weaning on day 21 as pups nursed by controls, and only 4 of 30 pups survived.
The investigators found that all pups nursed by the control rats survived until weaning, including those born to triclocarban-fed maternal rats but nursed by control rats. No pups nursed by rats that received the larger triclocarban dose, 0.5%, survived until day 6. Among pups nursed by rats that received the 0.2% dose of triclocarban, 57% reportedly lived to nine days after birth, and only 13% survived after weaning.
“Our data suggest that the critical exposure window affecting rat pup survival is related to lactation, as all pups raised by control rats survived regardless of triclocarban exposure status during gestation,” Kennedy said.
While the researchers didn’t measure the triclocarban levels present in the offspring, they theorize “that the chemical entered the gastrointestinal tract through the mother’s milk and affected the pups’ growth and development.”