Chemical Found In Lipstick Could Damage Heart

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers found a commonly used chemical in household products may cause heart and muscle problems.

Triclosan is found in hundreds of products like lipsticks, face washes and toothpaste, but the fact that it is abundant doesn’t mean it is safe. The chemical can hinder the process by which muscles, including the heart, receive signals from the brain.

Researchers performed tests on mice and noticed a dramatic 25 percent reduction in heart function within 20 minutes of exposure to triclosan. They said that their study indicates there is “strong evidence” the chemical could affect human health.

Health regulators insist, however, that triclosan levels in products are safe, and the doses injected in the mice were higher than those exposed in humans.

This is the first study that has linked the chemical to problems with muscles. Other studies have linked triclosan to thyroid and fertility problems.

University of California researchers say the chemical may remain active in the body, instead of metabolize like previously though. This would mean it could be transported to organs and cause damage.

“These findings provide strong evidence that it is of concern to both human and environmental health,” Professor Isaac Pessah, who led the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

He said for a healthy person, a 10 percent drop in heart function may not have an effect, but someone who has heart disease may notice the difference.

Within 20 minutes of injecting the mice with triclosan, the animals had a “significantly” reduced function in the heart’s left ventricle.

Another test looked at the mice’s skeletal muscles, and research found that within an hour, the mice saw an 18 percent drop in their grip strength.

“The effects of triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic,” Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC Davis and a study co-author, said in a press release. “Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models.”

Researchers believe the chemical disrupts the flow of calcium ions in the body, which bring electrical signals from the brain to the muscle.

“We were surprised by the large degree to which muscle activity was impaired in very different organisms and in both cardiac and skeletal muscle,” Bruce Hammock, a study co-author and professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, said in the release. “You can imagine in animals that depend so totally on muscle activity that even a 10 percent reduction in ability can make a real difference in their survival.”

The FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are conducting new risk assessments of triclosan.

“We have shown that triclosan potently impairs muscle functions by interfering with signaling between two proteins that are of fundamental importance to life,” Pessah said in the release. “Regulatory agencies should definitely be reconsidering whether it should be allowed in consumer products.”

Hammock said the chemical can be useful in some instances, but it could be more harmful than helpful. He said at the very least, “our findings call for a dramatic reduction in its use.”