Study Shows Over-Cleanliness Negatively Affects Immune System
In a never-ending quest to eliminate human contact with germs, science has given society a number of hygienic chemicals. Among these chemicals are Triclosan, found commonly in anti-bacterial soaps, toothpaste, and many other products, and Bisphenol A (BPA), found in the protective lining of food cans. A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor suggests that these chemicals may be detrimental to the immune system and cause allergies.
Both Triclosan and BPA are classified as endocrine-disrupting compounds. They interfere with the body's natural synthesis, transport, and other processes of hormones.
Researchers from UM used samples from adults in the United States and children over age 6. They compared concentration of these chemicals in the urine with cytomegalovirus antibody levels and diagnosis of allergies or hay fever. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibodies and allergies/hay fever are indicators of alterations of the immune system.
"We found that people over age 18 with higher levels of BPA exposure had higher CMV antibody levels, which suggests their cell-mediated immune system may not be functioning properly," said Erin Rees Clayton, research investigator at the U-M School of Public Health and first author on the paper.
They found that children with high levels of triclosan had a higher propensity for allergies and hay fever. This means that overexposing children to antibacterial soap and other "clean" products actually has the opposite effect of making the child sicker.
"The triclosan findings in the younger age groups may support the 'hygiene hypothesis,' which maintains living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our exposure to micro-organisms that are beneficial for development of the immune system," said Allison Aiello, associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health and principal investigator on the study.
Surprisingly, age played a factor in this study. For example, adults with high levels of BPA also had higher CMV levels, while children under 18 did not.
More research needs to be done to establish a definite causal relationship. Are people really sicker from over-using hygienic products? Or do they use these products because they are sicker? Researchers need to study the long-term effects of BPA and Triclosan to see how they affect the immune system.
The study has published in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Click here for link to published study: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action;jsessionid=A9FCDD88E9FB14CF3DB17779760B89B8?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1002883