Triclosan in Household Dust Linked To Antibiotic Resistance Interview with:

Erica Marie Hartmann PhD Assistant Professor Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering Northwestern University Evanston, IL 60208

Dr. Erica Hartmann

Erica Marie Hartmann PhD
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL 60208 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The antimicrobial chemical triclosan has been found in almost every dust sample that has ever been tested worldwide, and we already know that triclosan can cause an increase in antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater. This study is the first to show a link between antibiotic resistance genes and antimicrobial chemicals in indoor dust, which people tend to come into contact with more than wastewater.

This finding is important because the World Health Organization has identified a huge information gap in community-acquired antibiotic-resistant infections; the use of antimicrobial chemicals in homes and other non-medical buildings could be contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance outside of hospital settings. This study was published in the wake of the FDA decision last week to ban the use of triclosan and several other antimicrobial chemicals in soaps. While the FDA decision is a good first step, it’s not the end the problem. Antimicrobial chemicals like triclosan are in a lot of different products. Right now, we don’t know how much of the triclosan we see in dust comes from soap vs. other products (building materials, paints, plastics, etc.). What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The chemicals you bring into your home may stick around for longer than you think and wind up in places they aren’t supposed to. We should take this opportunity to think critically about the products we use and perhaps not use antimicrobial products unless we have a specific reason to (for example, people who are immune-compromised).

It’s also important to note that this study does not show that buildings are full of things that will make you sick. We have no evidence that people in this building were any more or less healthy than people in other buildings. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Until we know the full extent of antibiotic resistance both at home and in medical settings, it’s hard to say where the biggest problem lies. We need to find responsible ways to use antimicrobials and antibiotics everywhere—at home, in agriculture, and in medicine—to truly tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance. In some cases, like in household soaps, that may mean not using them at all. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Erica M. Hartmann, Roxana Hickey, Tiffany Hsu, Clarisse M. Betancourt Román, Jing Chen, Randall Schwager, Jeff Kline, G. Z. Brown, Rolf U. Halden, Curtis Huttenhower, Jessica L. Green. Antimicrobial Chemicals Are Associated with Elevated Antibiotic Resistance Genes in the Indoor Dust Microbiome. Environmental Science & Technology, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b00262

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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