Antibacterial soaps` chemical could harm nursing babies

Updated: Jun 30, 2013, 18:38 PM IST

Washington: Prolonged use of antibacterial soaps containing the chemical triclocarban may harm nursing babies, a study has revealed.

The study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which was conducted on rats, showed that exposure to the compound may reduce the survival rates of babies.

Rebekah Kennedy, a UT graduate student pursuing a dual master`s degree in public health and nutrition, said that people have to weigh their own risks and decide what would be the best route.

She said that there is always a time and place for antibacterial bar soaps, like in health care settings where the chance of infection and transmission is high, asserting that for the average person, antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap.

Jiangang Chen, an assistant professor in the UT Department of Public Health, conducted an earlier study that examined how prolonged exposure to triclocarban affected growth of sex organs in adult male rats.

Kennedy decided to go a step further and look into how it would affect baby rats in the womb and during nursing.

Humans are exposed to triclocarban through skin absorption. Research shows that based on how the compound is biotransformed, oral exposure in rats is similar to dermal exposure for humans, Kennedy said.

During Kennedy`s research, pregnant rats fed with triclocarban through food had similar blood concentrations compared to human blood concentrations after a 15-minute shower using antibacterial soap.

The study found that triclocarban did not affect the post-birth survival rate of baby rats exposed to the compound in the womb. But baby rats nursed by mothers that were exposed to the compound did not survive beyond the sixth day after birth.

The results showed that a mother`s long-term use and exposure to triclocarban could affect her baby`s early development, according to the animal model, Kennedy said.