A chemical found in most antibacterial soaps may be fighting off germs at the cost of causing liver damage. There have been question marks around triclosan for some time—the FDA warned last year that antibacterial soap could be harmful, and Minnesota banned the ingredient this year—but new research finds it could be a lot more dangerous than thought, the Atlantic reports. The study linked the chemical to liver damage and tumors in mice, the Independent reports, and though it wasn't found to actually cause cancer, the changes observed in the mice's bodies "resemble the environment within which human liver cancer forms," the researchers say. Triclosan is found in around 75% of germ-killing soaps, as well as in products like floor waxes, toothpaste, and cosmetics.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, says triclosan—which some manufacturers have already started to phase out—appeared to make the mice more susceptible to liver disease, and promoted the growth of tumors once they appeared. Researchers say the chemical is of concern because it is so prevalent and suggest many of its uses should be eliminated. Exposure could be limited by removing triclosan from uses of "high volume, but of low benefit," like hand soap, a study co-author says, while retaining "uses shown to have health value—as in toothpaste, where the amount used is small." (The FDA took 40 years to consider the use of triclosan, leading to calls to completely change how we regulate chemicals.)