Our experts respond to study linking household chemical to osteoporosis

27 Jun 2019

“Chemical found in soap and toothpaste linked to osteoporosis in women,” said The Telegraph on 25 June.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, looked at the association between exposure to triclosan and bone density.

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal chemical. It is sometimes added to soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, and even furniture and toys to reduce or prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.

The study analysed data from 1,848 US adult women and found that those with higher levels of triclosan in their urine were more likely to be at risk of osteoporosis.

However, the study’s authors acknowledge that further research is needed, and our experts warn that we should interpret the results carefully.

"The results from this study should be treated with caution – they didn’t prove that triclosan causes osteoporosis," says our clinical adviser Professor Richard Eastell, Professor of Bone Metabolism at the University of Sheffield. 

"The effect of triclosan on bone density was small and it wasn’t clear whether other factors might have been the cause."

Our Nurse Consultant Sarah Leyland adds: “The study’s design meant it could only show a potential link between triclosan and osteoporosis, but couldn’t prove that the triclosan was responsible for the lower bone density or that using it makes you more likely to have broken bones.

"This type of study is useful because it highlights potential risk factors, but more research is needed to prove that the findings are significant for our bones.

"There have been some wider concerns that triclosan might interfere with the hormones in our body. It was banned in cleaning products in the US because they felt there wasn’t enough evidence it worked or that it was safe.

"However, a review of the current evidence in 2013 said there were some benefits and no evidence of harm, at least in the short term.

“In short, this study doesn’t provide strong evidence to say that you should avoid using products containing triclosan, so there’s no need to replace any of the products you have at home because of concerns about effects on your bones.”

Read more information about how you can look after your bones.

If you’d like to discuss this story with our specialist nurses, call free on 0808 800 0035 or email nurses@theros.org.uk.

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