(Sacramento Bee) The onset of flu season brings with it a rise in the use of antibacterial hand soaps. Many such soaps contain triclosan – a chemical that studies have shown affects the function of heart muscle and has been implicated in altering thyroid function in lab animal studies.

Scientists studying the chemical feel it is not necessary in keeping hands free from bacteria.

The chemical has been the focus of research at UC Davis for the last eight years. The most recent study was one of the first to find that mice exposed to high levels of the chemical showed impairment in the contraction and relaxation of heart and skeletal muscle.

Triclosan – introduced in 1969 as a pesticide – was first used as an antiseptic in 1972. Initially used in surgical scrub soap, it is now widely used in popular antibacterial soaps, such as Dial, and other consumer products, such as toothpaste and cosmetics.

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