[Since it’s been over two and a half years since this UC Davis study was published and triclosan is still widely used, I am republishing this post from 8/21/2012.]
Due to an obsession with germs by Americans, antibacterial products have flooded the marketplace. Triclosan, introduced in the 1970’s, has become a popular antibacterial agent in consumer products.
Studies have raised the possibility that the overuse of triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics, but new studies now attribute it to weakening cardiac and skeletal muscle contractility — a problem that can affect people with heart disease and heart failure.
Triclosan Use Due to the abundant use of triclosan in personal care products, triclosan levels in urine, blood and breast milk are on the rise. It’s used in everyday products, such as:
- Washcloths and towels
- Kitchen utensils
Muscle Impairment According to the study, exposure to triclosan is linked with:
- Depressing hemodynamics (blood flow)
- Impairing cardiac and skeletal muscle function in humans and mice
- 25% reduction in heart function within 20 minutes of exposure to triclosan
- 18% reduction in grip strength for up to 60 minutes after being given a single dose of triclosan
- Slowing the swimming of fish
The Report Researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Colorado report that triclosan (even in low concentrations) can:
- Disrupt the signaling between the L-type (long-lasting) Ca2+ (calcium ions) channels and Ca2+ release channels (ryanodine receptors) in skeletal muscle
- Impair L-type Ca2+ entry in cardiac muscle
- Interfere with ‘excitation-contraction coupling’
So what does this mean?
Muscle Basics Your muscles contract due to a finely orchestrated mechanism of receptors, signals and ions that influence excitation in your cells and innervate muscle fibers. Muscles convert an electrical stimulus to a mechanical response (contraction) — a physiological process known as ‘excitation-contraction coupling’ (ECC).
The Importance of Calcium The researchers report that triclosan interferes with ECC and calcium signaling, entry and release. Calcium ions (Ca2+) play a pivotal role in cell physiology. They act as messengers that regulate muscle contraction and many other processes in your cells, such as:
- Normal cell function
- Neural transmission
- Intracellular signaling
- Blood coagulation
- Bone structure
- Membrane stability
Your cells also have many different types of Ca2+ transporters or ‘channels’ which are the primary pathways for Ca2+ release. Calcium release is the key determinant of muscle force.
Fit Tip: The researchers caution that translating results from animals to humans would require further study, but triclosan could have significant effects because it is so widely used. It may be difficult for your doctor to distinguish between the natural progression of your disease and the effects of triclosan.
Read product labels carefully to avoid products containing this compound. Washing correctly with plain soap and water is just as effective without the risk of impairing Ca2+ dynamics in your muscles. See How to Stay Healthy (Skin Cleansing)
Chemical widely used in antibacterial hand soaps may impair muscle function. UC Davis News and Information. Aug 2012.
Triclosan impairs excitation–contraction coupling and Ca2+dynamics in striated muscle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. July 2012