You see, many dishwashing liquids contain triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal compound that helps kill germs. So far, so straight-forward... That is until we learned that even after washing, traces of this get left on our dishes - the very vessels we eat off for our next meal.
Recent research out of the University of Chicago has looked into how this type of exposure to triclosan affects the microbiome, and spoiler: it ain’t good.
In experiments on fish, they found that the chemical changed the population of bacteria in the gut. However, this reversed itself after the triclosan was removed. In another experiment on biofilms, the microbiome remained altered even after the exposure was eliminated. Alyson L Yee and Jack A Gilbert (aka, the study’s authors) link changes like this to a “wide array of diseases and metabolic disorders, including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and behavioural and metabolic disorders.” They also suggest that triclosan exposure could be even more detrimental to the health of developing foetuses and newborns than it is to adults.
So, what’s the answer here? Switching to a plant-based dishwashing detergent would be a good start, hand-washing too. (FYI, natural products have been proven to be just as effective as their chemical-based counterparts.) Still, more research is needed to establish how detrimental products containing triclosan truly are:
“Future research should explore the role of dose, timing, and route of triclosan exposure,” Yee and Gilbert add. “Humans are exposed to triclosan transiently and in small doses, but the presence of triclosan in surface, ground and drinking water indicates its potential to persist and accumulate in the environment.”