Laboratory tests on volunteers in Canada have found alarmingly high concentrations of a toxic anti-bacterial chemical used in soaps, toothpaste and cleaning products, a new report says.
The tests, which involved several prominent Canadian artists, detected high concentrations of triclosan, a chemical linked to hormone disruption, liver damage and weakening of the immune system.
The report, by Environmental Defence Canada said the average levels of triclosan detected in urine samples from eight volunteers were higher than those listed by scientific studies as toxic to marine life. It is one of the first studies to indicate triclosan can potentially bioaccumulate in humans, even among those living in households where natural personal care products are used instead of anti-bacterial soaps, shampoos and skin care products.
''This is terrifying. How do I get this out of me, now,'' one of the volunteers, Grammy-ward winning composer Richard Reed Parry, of Canada, said.
Earlier this month, Australian regulatory authorities listed triclosan as a poison under federal legislation, requiring ''strong label warnings and safety directions'' for all cosmetics and personal care products containing more than 0.3 per cent triclosan.
But documents posted on the federal health department website show moves to lower the cut-off level to 0.2 per cent were quashed following submissions claiming this ''would have widespread commercial implications for industry''.
Several submissions also questioned a report by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme which recommended a revised hazardous substance classification for triclosan, listing under federal poison scheduling and environmental monitoring of triclosan levels discharged from sewage outlets into rivers and creeks.
The NICNAS report raised concerns about the potential impact on aquatic wildlife such as platypus, and levels of triclosan in treated effluent used as irrigation water and agricultural fertiliser. It also recommended the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority ''take note'' of the poison scheduling and its potential impact on veterinary products.
Triclosan is commonly used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent in cosmetics, soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorants and household cleaning products. It is also used to ''sanitise'' a range of products including garbage bags, kitchen utensils, smartphone cases, toys, socks and even Australia's favourite footwear - the thong.
Among those who volunteered to take the test were Parry, top chef Jamie Kennedy, filmmaker Sook-Yin Lee, indie rock musician John Samson and arts writer Katrina Onstad.
Parry, who has performed with artists such as David Bowie, had the highest levels of triclosan at 54.3 nanograms a litre, followed by midwife Alison Humphrey at 28.9 nanograms a litre.
Only one volunteer, environmental scientist Henry Lickers returned a negative result, with no detectable levels of triclosan.