Massage therapists understand the importance of hand-washing before every session, and antibacterial hand soaps have grown in popularity over the past decade. But the use of antibacterial products could be linked to impaired muscle function, according to new research.

Researchers have found that triclosan, an antibacterial chemical widely used in hand soaps and other personal-care products, hinders muscle contractions at a cellular level, slows swimming in fish and reduces muscular strength in mice, according to a press release from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado.

“Triclosan is found in virtually everyone’s home and is pervasive in the environment,” said Isaac Pessah, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and principal investigator of the study. “These findings provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health.”

The UC Davis research team has previously linked triclosan to other potentially harmful health effects, including disruption of reproductive hormone activity and of cell signaling in the brain.

Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC Davis and a study co-author, cautioned that translating results from animal models to humans is a large step and would require further study. However, the fact that the effects were so striking in several animal models under different experimental conditions provides strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure.

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