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A plague of antimicrobials 

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Have you had your daily minimum requirement of triclosan today? How about your dosage of triclocarban?

Chances are you have, but don't know it. These two are antimicrobial chemicals, which might sound like a good thing, except that they disrupt the human body's normal regulatory processes. Animal studies show, for example, that these triclos can be linked to the scrambling of hormones in children, disruption of puberty and of the reproductive system, decreases in thyroid hormone levels that affect brain development, and other serious health problems.

Yet, corporations have slipped them into all sorts of consumer products, pushing them with a blitz of advertising that claims the antibacterial ingredients prevent the spread of infections. The two chemicals were originally meant for use by surgeons to cleanse their hands before operations, but that tiny application has now proliferated like a plague, constantly exposing practically everyone to small amounts here, there, and everywhere, adding up to dangerous mega-doses.

Triclosan and triclocarban were first mixed into soaps, but then — BOOM! — brand-name corporations went wild, putting these hormone disrupters into about 2,000 products, including toothpaste, mouthwashes, fabrics, and (most astonishingly) into baby pacifiers!

Today, use of the chemicals is so prevalent that they can be found in the urine of three-fourths of Americans. They also accumulate in groundwater and soil, so they saturate our environment and eventually us — one study found them in the breast milk of 97 percent of women tested.

For decades, corporate lobbying and regulatory meekness let this chemical menace spread. But now the Food & Drug Administration is finally questioning the continued use of the two triclos. For more information and action, go to the Natural Resources Defense Council: nrdc.org.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

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