Is All That Hand Washing Causing Osteoporosis?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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osteoporosis and hand washing

We’ve all been told to wash our hands. As a doctor, I have to do it many more times a day than the average person. However, what if the soap we use has agents in it that are making us sick? Today we’ll review one called Triclosan.

What is Triclosan?

The Food and Drug Administration says that the compound triclosan is added to products to prevent or reduce bacterial contamination. Manufacturers add it to everything from toothpaste to furniture. It’s been known for a while that triclosan may cause problems. Prior studies have raised the possibility that triclosan exposure may contribute to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. And, it’s already known to affect the bone health of animals. Studies have also suggested the compound might interfere with reproductive and thyroid hormones, so this study aimed to determine if and how much triclosan contributes to brittle, weak bones in humans.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when bone density decreases and bones become fragile. They can become so fragile that even a mild fall, which wouldn’t damage normal bone, can severely fracture osteoporotic bones. Osteoporosis and compression fractures of the vertebrae are most common in post-menopausal aging women whose bones have become weak after many years of inactivity and hormonal imbalances.

Osteoporosis and Triclosan

In a report published recently in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers in China looked at data collected from over 1,800 US women. The researchers found that the women they studied who had the highest levels of the compound in their urine were over twice as likely to have osteoporosis as those with the lowest levels of triclosan. This was especially true in postmenopausal women.

Even though the study did not prove that triclosan is a direct cause of osteoporosis, it is possible that exposure to the compound may trigger changes in a woman’s production of estrogen and thyroid hormones which, in turn, disrupt healthy skeletal development and the maintenance of healthy bone tissue.

More research is needed to directly prove a direct connection between triclosan and osteoporosis, but it’s just smart to avoid products that contain it. Read labels on everything from toothpaste to pencils, and don’t buy or use products that contain the stuff.

The upshot? I’m checking my soap and other labels in our house right now. This stuff is in everything from hand wash to cosmetics to deodorants. So check the labels before you buy!

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3 thoughts on “Is All That Hand Washing Causing Osteoporosis?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Tonya,
      There have been some studies that raise that concern: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945593/

  1. Gary Nicolaisen

    Not sure about all of what you say but will start checking. It makes sense. Couple years ago I used to get little sores and cuts all over my hands. They were so annoying but I just thought it was because it was winter and I worked outside so it was just chapped skin. Then I talked to somebody who told me it might be the anti-bacterial soap we were using in our house. It was a new brand my wife had been trying for the last couple months. Stopped using that soap and my hands cleared up within a week.Was at a doctors office awhile later and saw the PA’s hands looked the way mine used to. Told her about the anti-bacterial soap thing, looked around their office and everything was anti-bacterial. Next month when we went back, I noticed that most of the products, gloves, soap and other stuff had been replaced with Anti-microbial gloves, soap and others. Must have been some truth to that anti-bacterial stuff

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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