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Can washing your hands lead to a debilitating disease?

We all know that there are some activities that have a higher risk of leading to a serious or fatal illness than others. We know that being around asbestos can lead to mesothelioma and that too much UV exposure can lead to skin cancer. But what about washing your hands? Could such a common behavior actually result in a potentially debilitating disease?

According to research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there is a strong possibility that the answer to this question is yes. According to the study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of California in San Diego, long-term exposure to triclosan -- an anti-bacterial chemical found in many hand soaps -- could lead to liver cancer, which was the result for laboratory mice in the study.

Researchers believe that its use in a wide range of consumer products -- such as in toothpaste and other household products -- could be putting humans at risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma, the type of cancer that developed in the study's mice. Considered the third-leading cancer-related death around the world, this cancer should be of particular note to our Missouri readers because it is a Compassionate Allowance.

Although the potential danger of triclosan has not escaped the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it's unclear if any federal regulations have been proposed or if we will see restrictions on its use in the years to come. This means that consumers across the nation, including here in St. Louis, could become disabled by this type of cancer -- a trend that may continue until research such as this forces the government to act in the public's best interest.

Source: Live Science, "Antibacterial Soap Ingredient May Cause Cancer in Mice," Megan Gannon, Nov. 19, 2014

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