Scientists at Arizona State University warned that the multi-million pound industry in hand sanitisers is fuelling a rise in the use of personal care products, which end up filtering into lakes and rivers – causing potential harm to the environment, wildlife and people.
In the first statewide analysis of freshwater across Minnesota, researchers found widespread evidence of the presence of triclosan and triclocarban, both active ingredients commonly found in sanitisers, anti-microbial soaps and disinfectants.
Experts traced the products from homes to sewers to wastewater treatment plants and eventually, downstream into natural waterways.
Both triclocarban and triclosan have been scrutinised by public health bodies over concerns about their impact on environmental and public health.
Professor Rolf Halden, director of environmental security at the ASU’s Biodesign Institute, said: “This study underscores the extent to which additives of anti-microbial consumer products are polluting freshwater environments in the US.”
The Food and Drug Administration in the US has previously said that research shows “valid concerns” about triclosan, including the risk that it can disrupt the body’s endocrine system and help create bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics.
Hand sanitiser sales have been growing in recent years in the US and the UK, where Superdrug reported a 12 per cent increase in sales this summer compared to the same time last year.
Several studies have shown that a sanitiser is no more effective than soap and water, however.