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Chemical Linked to Osteoporosis

Chemical found in soap and toothpaste linked to osteoporosis

New research shows a link between a chemical used in some soaps, toothpastes and antibacterial products, and osteoporosis.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, looked at the levels of the chemical triclosan in the urine of 1,848 women, finding that those with higher levels were more likely to have bone issues. The evidence was stronger in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women. The chemical has previously been linked to bowel cancer and antibiotic resistance.

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent which is added to some soaps, body washes and cosmetics but can also be found in clothing, kitchenware, toys and furniture.

Some big companies like Unilever have stopped putting triclosan in their products and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has gone as far as to ban the chemical from consumer soaps and hand sanitiser and antiseptic products used in hospitals. It has not yet been banned in the UK.

Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density. This makes bones more prone to fracture. It is usually observed in older people but can affect people of all ages.

Co-author of the study, Dr Yingjun Li of Hangzhou Medical College School of Public Health in Hangzhou, China, said: "Laboratory studies have demonstrated that triclosan may have potential to adversely affect the bone mineral density in cell lines or in animals. However, little is known about the relationship between triclosan and human bone health."

Previous studies have shown a link between poor bone health and triclosan in mice but it is believed that this is the first of its kind in humans, explains Li. "As far as we know, this is the first epidemiological study to investigate the association between triclosan exposure with bone mineral density and osteoporosis in a nationally representative sample from US adult women."

This study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology.

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