Antibacterial soaps may reduce lifespan of female babies

A team of researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have studied how exposure to triclocarban, a chemical found in antibacterial soaps, could be linked to early death in female offsprings.

This study, conducted on rats, stresses on a very important matter given that a huge portion of the population uses antibacterial soaps in day-to-day life, and is therefore exposed to triclocarban.

"Our study provides supporting evidence for the potential adverse effects of triclocarban exposure during early life, specifically during the lactation period," lead author of the study, Rebekah Kennedy, a graduate student at the Department of Public Health at the University of Tennessee, said. "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."

A study conducted earlier by senior investigator Jiangang Chen, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, found that prolonged exposure to triclocarban caused an enhanced growth of sex organs in adult male rats. The researchers associated with this earlier study also sought to learn how the exposure of triclocarban during lactation or while in the womb, would affect the baby rats; and this new study has done just that.

Pregnant rats were taken for the study and given unlimited access to rat chow which was laced with triclocarban (around 0.2 to 0.5 percent), beginning on the 5th day of pregnancy till the 21st day. This exposure is similar to the concentration of triclocarban in blood in humans after a 15-minute whole body shower using an antibacterial soap containing 0.6 percent triclocarban, the researchers claim.

Following birth, some of the litter was moved so that each rat nursed two of her own pups, and two others which were not exposed to triclocarban during the pregnancy.

Weighing all the baby rats, the scientists found that triclocarban exposed baby rats were lighter in weight as compared to those rats who weren't exposed to triclocarban. Also, the baby rats who received a higher concentration of triclocarban did not survive beyond day 6 after their birth.

"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 explained.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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