A pharmacist's look at the supermarket and beyond

Search results: "triclosan"

Good News Re: Triclosan

Seems that all those voices expressing concern about the dangers of triclosan have finally hit home. Checking supermarket shelves, I am hard pressed to find an antibacterial soap that still uses triclosan. There are still plenty of “antibacterial” soaps. The new darling of this department is benzethonium chloride. Benzethonium chloride is widely used in hospitals as it has been shown to be highly effective against MRSA. Even for routine cuts and scrapes it has proven to be a better germ killer than Neosporin, or Polysporin. Speaking of MRSA, 58% of MRSA infections found in the community began in a public setting after a person had been in a health care facility. That’s a pretty good reason to avoid hospitals, or at least be sure to use extreme precautions if you must visit.

Anyway, back to benzethonium chloride, an inorganic compound that is bactericidal which is superior to bacteriostatic, both of which can be called antibacterial. As it sounds, batericidal means it kills bacteria while bacteriostatic means it stops bacteria from reproducing. Bacterial reproduction, by the way, requires no partner. I’m not so sure we need to use it on humans, but I do see usefulness on inanimate surfaces, at least until something better and safer comes along.

There are tiny amounts of this substance in the products on supermarkets, yet I still worry that this can still be a toxic substance. Why do we need that extra ingredient when science tells us that washing with soap and warm water is the best disinfectant around. Do soaps labeled “antibacterial” sell that much better? Do people NOT wash up with warm or hot water? In any case, the CDC says: “The substance is toxic to aquatic organisms. It is strongly advised that this substance does not enter the environment.” So why the Hell are we adding it to hundreds of products to be used in and on humans and drained away into our waters?

Consumers did a great job of getting triclosan out of these products by letting manufacturers know we disapproved by our voices and our purchasing choices. I think its time to do it again. End this love affair with redundant antibacterial chemicals.

Previous Triclosan posts are here and here.

Ban Triclosan NOW!

More bad news for triclosan. An Arizona State University (Go Devils!) long term research study has strengthened the link between triclosan and fetal risks. Building on research at University of Florida (Go Gators!), the ASU study demonstrates a link between triclosan exposure and lowered birth size (length and weight). The Florida study and others have shown that triclosan disrupts the enzyme estrogen sulfotransferase which helps to metabolize estrogen into a form that can cross the placenta and reach the developing fetus. Estrogen regulates a variety of genes and fetal hormones including cortisol, a steroid hormone critical for maturation of the brain, lungs, liver and other organs and tissues of the developing fetus. The new ASU study data was presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society on August 11, 2014.

In 2013, a USC (Go Trojans!) study showed that triclosan impaired sperm mobility by depolarizing calcium channels. These calcium channels are responsible for flagella motion so triclosan limits the swimming ability of the sperm cells. These researchers suggested that triclosan can be used as a molecular probe to further the study of calcium channels. Good. Keep it in the lab!

This dangerous endocrine disruptor is present in over 2,000 products sold in our marketplaces and I’ve ragged on it in a previous post and in practice.

Triclosan was developed and is manufactured by Ciba Chemical which was acquired in 2009 by BASF. They’ll be happy to note that another use for triclosan has been found as a preservative of evidence of arson accelerants at suspicious fire scenes. CSI take note.

Sorry about the (cheering!), I’m getting prepped for football season.

Healthier Skin, Healthier You.    Bullshit!

“Healthier Skin, Healthier You”

Take action! Stop buying these products and demand their removal from the marketplace!

Ban Triclosan!

We seem to have a fondness for waging war on bacteria. I look around the market and I see hundreds of antibacterial products on the shelves. I’m not talking about the antibiotics in the pharmacy,sometimes an antibiotic is needed. I mean stuff like soaps and cosmetics, even plastics like cutting boards and school supplies.
antibacterial soap

Triclosan is quite often the chemical added to our products to allow that antibacterial claim. There are many problems with this chemical. It is not removed by water treatment so is poured into the environment. The thing is, it really does not give any more oomph to washing with soap and water, nor is there any good reason to routinely wipe out vast populations of bacteria before giving our immune systems and chance to do a meet and greet and build safeguards against the bad guys. In fact, there is strong evidence that triclosan may be contributing to our antibiotic resistance problem.

I find this claim of natural protection very disturbing

I find this claim of natural protection very disturbing

This chemical is reported to be an allergen, and can disrupt reproductive and other hormones. The CDC found triclosan in the urine of 75% of people tested and in breast milk of 60% of women tested. That should scare the pants off you! Even scientists at the FDA have stated that there is no good reason to use this chemical and yet there it is on our shelves and in our bodies.toothpaste

The good news is that more people are becoming aware of this danger. Triclosan is banned in Europe and on May 25, 2014, Minnesota became the first state to ban triclosan. I urge everybody to keep that momentum rolling by voting with their wallets and stop buying any product that contains triclosan (also triclocarban). Tell your elected officials and the FDA that you want these chemicals banned in the USA!
If you have these products in your home, contact the manufacturer and tell them you want a refund and to stop using triclosan in their products.

No Balloon? No Party.

As a young pharmacy intern, one of my first encounters with somebody embarrassed buying condoms happened at Laverdiere’s Drug Store. A young man had been hovering near the pharmacy check out counter and finally, when other customers had departed and he had only me to deal with, he quickly grabbed a box from the condom display and brought it up to buy his box of three original Trojans. I could see he had a dollar bill clutched in his hand and when I rang it up and told him the total he looked confused, worried, and sad all at the same time.
“That will be a dollar and three cents,” I told him.
He stammered back, “it says ninety-nine cents!.”
“Well there’s four cents for the tax,” I replied, and now he looked downright terrorized.
“If you have to hold them on with tacks, forget it!” he cried and started to beat a hasty retreat.

I was able to coax him back to the counter and give him some solid advice on proper condom use and kicked in the three cents so he could go on his merry way.
The scenario is apocryphal, of course, and comes from an old pharmacy joke that has probably been around as long as condoms and taxes. Truly though, I have counseled many a young man on condom use and other ins and outs of safer sex.

Early attempts at condoms or some sort of penile protection were usually cloth based, linens and silk mostly. This reminds me of the even older joke about the traveling salesman who revisits a lass that he had frolicked with on his last circuit through town only to find that she had a fair-haired young son about whom he remarked, “He sure is a fine young lad.” The woman shot back, “He should be fine, he was strained through a silk handkerchief.”

We tend to give the Romans credit for the first use of the more effective goat bladder condom. An Italian doctor, Gabriel Falloppio, is believed to have taken sheaths of lamb gut, tied one end with a ribbon, and anchored on the erect penis with another ribbon. “Look! A present for you!” These were often rinsed out and reused and can be seen hanging to dry in some late 16th century artwork.

Today we have a wide assortment of condoms available, offering a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, flavors and scents. Package claims even stretch into the realm of providing an enhanced sexual experience. Some focus on sexual pleasure with promises of arousal, intense pleasure, double ecstasy, and even intensified charged orgasmic pleasure! Wow! I must admit that I have not used a condom in many years and had no idea they were electrically charged nowadays!

We do not have electric condoms yet, although there is a vibrating ring with its tiny little battery, so we’re getting close. The condoms in question use a “intensified lubricant” and strategically designed and placed “ribs” or ridges to provide the charge. “Price check on Charged Orgasm condoms on register three!”

This all started when I was unlocking the condom case one morning and I noticed the huge variety of condoms (and even vibrating rings!) that we had in stock, all sporting a variety of sexy claims. I wondered how they did it. Chemicals must be used that create these sensations and so I asked my students to have a look at the ingredients and report what types of things were used in or on condoms to support the package claims.
What if somebody had an allergic reaction to a condom? Would they know what caused it? The ladies began a passionate pursuit of new knowledge…

This turns out to be a daunting task. It’s a secret! Not much info is provided beyond whether the condom is latex or not, have nonoxynol-9 as a spermicide, and then simply state if a lubricant is present. Or in the case of the Climax Control versions, that benzocaine, an anesthetic, is used. There is a “Fire and Ice” Trojan which I suspect may use castor oil (!) for warming and menthol (!) for cooling, although I have no way to verify that. I did find hydrogenated castor oil listed as an ingredient in some personal lubricants.

We were able to find that various things may be added to the latex during the vulcanization process, but that is proprietary information. We were able to learn from secondary sources that condom manufacturers sometimes use the milk protein, casein, and the lack of casein supports the claim of “Vegan Certified.”

Sir Richard

Sir Richard

We found that parabens may be used. Parabens are another one of those chemicals commonly used in our cosmetics and personal hygiene products, ostensibly to prevent bacterial growth. Parabens have been found in breast tumors, although no causal relationship has been established. Parabens are thought to be endocrine disruptors (remember the Triclosan blog?) and have estrogenic activity, although, according to the FDA, “they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.” Great. I’d be concerned about soaking my dick in estrogen every night! OK, OK, maybe not every night.

Glycerin, a hydroscopic sugar alcohol, is a relatively safe lubricating liquid with a variety of uses, most relating to its hydrating effect. Being a sugar alcohol, it is somewhat sweet and edible. However, there are numerous reports from women of increased frequency of yeast infection when exposed to glycerin found on condoms.

So here’s the rub. The FDA addresses condom labeling under the general device labeling regulations with addendum for expiration dating and warnings about latex allergy when appropriate. There is no regulatory compulsion to disclose anything about other additives or chemicals used in the vulcanization process, lubricants, or anything they care to squirt into that little foil pouch.

So its up to you to cover your own ass, so to speak. Choose wisely, grasshopper. I would recommend the KISS principle here: Keep It Simple, Stupid, you don’t need a chemical bath for your penis to achieve intense pleasure, nor should you expose your lover to unknown risks.

Here are just a few of the varieties that we have in stock:



Trojan sports the biggest and longest product line. See it here.

Durex is also in the game in a big way.

Sir Richard promises fewer chemicals and for every condom they sell to you they promise to give one to a poor person in a developing country.

Research assistants: Hannah Shorb, PharmD candidate Midwestern University, Glendale and Thao Truong, PharmD candidate University of Arizona

Drugs in the Water

I am back from a vacation! One place I was in was Colorado, the Rocky Mountain National Park, where we crossed the continental divide. You’ll recall that water that falls west of the divide reaches the Pacific and water that fall on the east side flows to the Atlantic. As I urinated at 13,000 feet, I thought about all the drugs that I dispense and that most of them are excreted in the urine. What happens then?

If you are in a civilized setting you probably have a water treatment facility nearby that processes waste water for further use, most often agriculture or watering golf courses and such. So if a drug is reaching our water supply it is not directly going into the water that we drink. It is, however, going into the environment.

The EPA places drugs in a category called Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs). Here is a cool and complicated PDF, life cycle of pharmaceuticals in the environment. You can see that drugs and cosmetics eventually get into everything.

Thankfully the exposure to humans is still very low, but as we continue to dump these products into our waters, we may reach a tipping point where demonstrable effects are more common.

EPA studies of water from various treatment facilities found many drugs. I found it interesting that Diovan, a blood pressure medication, was most often the highest concentration found. Even then a person would need to dink this reclaimed water at a rate of 2 liters per day for 2 or 3 years to get near a single day’s dose. Blood pressure meds are some of the most commonly found drugs in treated waste water, with things like Xanax, hydrocodone, antidepressants like Prozac, ibuprofen, and a host of others showing up consistently. Many are in a metabolized form that may have lower activity than the original drug.

Most likely, you are not drinking water that contains drugs. However, they are reaching our ground water and are therefore being ingested by all kinds of critters. The long term effects are unknown, but when you couple this with things like triclosan, BPA, nano-particles, fracking chemicals, industrial spills and on and on, it’s a wonder we haven’t already spawned a real Godzilla.

It will not be easy to stem this tide. I urge you to support environmental causes, shop mindfully, vote wisely, and demand integrity from government and industry.