Down the Drain

Water pollution caused by cosmetic chemicals, cleaning supplies and plastics

July 12, 2007

Down the Drain: » in Medical Facilities

Medical treatment free of hormone-disrupting chemicals is healthier for you and your family, and reduces the amount of pollution entering San Francisco Bay.

•We tested 1 hospital and 1 medical clinic.
•We detected 3 of 5 phthalates.
•We detected triclosan.
•We did not detect bisphenol A.

Hormone-disrupting contaminants were detected in Medical Wastewater (parts per billion)


  Hospital Medical Clinic
DBP ND 0.66
BBzP 0.82 0.74
DEHP 2.7 1.0
Bisphenol A ND ND
Triclosan 237 18.2

Estimated Value


More Information:


Phthalates in medical facilities

Phthalates are found in many medical products. We detected 3 of 5 phthalates in wastewater from a hospital and a medical clinic. Studies show phthalates are common contaminants of people as well as streams and rivers (Kolpin 2002; CDC 2005; Wolff 2007).

  • Phthalates are widely used in PVC plastic medical products, such as IV tubing and blood and fluid storage bags.
  • Phthalates may also be components of pill coatings for pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements.
  • Phthalates are widely used in cleansing products. In addition, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is a component of "fragrance" in many cleansing and personal care products.

To reduce exposures to phthalates from medical treatment:

  • Health care workers and patients can urge their medical facilities to reduce or eliminate use of products containing phthalates.
  • Use detergents, cleansers, and personal care products that do not contain phthalates or "fragrance" in the ingredient list – "fragrance" commonly includes the phthalate DEP.

Triclosan in medical facilities

Triclosan may be found in "antibacterial" soaps, detergents, and other sanitizing products that may be used in medical facilities. We detected triclosan in wastewater from a hospital and a medical clinic. Triclosan is commonly detected in people, and in streams and rivers (Adolfsson-Erici 2002; Kolpin 2002; TNO 2005; Wolff 2007).

To reduce exposures to triclosan from medical treatment:

  • Avoid unnecessary use of "antibacterial" products. The American Medical Association recommends against using such products without specific need (Tan 2002).
  • Use an alcohol hand rub instead of a product containing triclosan for hand and skin disinfection.
  • Medical facilities can switch to effective alternatives to triclosan-based disinfection products.