A science team from Arizona State University, in collaboration with federal partners, has completed the first statewide analysis of freshwater bodies in Minnesota, finding widespread evidence of the presence of active ingredients of personal care products in Minnesota lakes, streams and rivers.
These products are a billion dollar industry and can be found in antimicrobial soaps, disinfectants, and sanitizers to scrub our hands and clean countertops. Hundreds of antimicrobial products are sold in the U.S., many marketed with efficacy claims that remain elusive due to the short duration of the average consumer’s handwashing practices. The fate of these products can be traced from home use to sewers to wastewater treatment plants to eventually, downstream bodies of water.
The research team focused on two active ingredients found prominently in anti-bacterial soaps — triclosan and triclocarban — which have come under scrutiny by the EPA and FDA due to their environmental and human health concerns. These compounds persist for decades in the environment, and both triclocarban and triclosan are among the top ten pharmaceuticals and personal care products most frequently found in the environment and in U.S. drinking water resources.
“This study underscores the extent to which additives of antimicrobial consumer products are polluting freshwater environments in the U.S.; it also shows natural degradation processes to be too slow to counter the continuous environmental release of these endocrine disrupting chemicals,” said Halden, director of Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute and professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. Halden’s research focuses on the interconnectedness of the water cycle and human health, with specialemphasis on the role of artificial products and human lifestyle choices on environmental quality.
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