When you’re going to have a baby, you want to take the best care of yourself and your home. But a common chemical thought to help keep dangerous bacteria at bay could be a danger in itself, according to a new study from the University of Florida.
The antibacterial agent triclosan is found in everything from soaps (for both people and household cleaning) to sponges, lotions to socks. But researchers have now found that it also keeps estrogen from getting to the developing fetus. Triclosan hinders an enzyme called estrogen sulfotransferase, which helps move estrogen through the placenta.
The estrogen that reaches the fetus plays a crucial role in brain development and the regulation of genes. Estrogen also impacts how much oxygen the baby gets from the mother.
Authors of the study, reported in November in Environment International, say that they don’t know how much triclosan would need to be present in a woman’s body before it caused a problem. Because the chemical isn’t naturally broken down in the environment, everyone has low levels in their bodies. Previous studies have linked triclosan to problems with hormone regulation and other health effects, and the FDA decided in April to study the chemical more closely. Their findings are due this coming spring.
Meanwhile, authors of the Florida study recommend that pregnant women avoid antibacterial soaps and other products containing triclosan. If it’s part of the product, it will be listed on the label.