How a germ killer could backfire

An ingredient in many household products can cripple the helpful microbes in a town’s water-treatment plant

By Stephen Ornes, 09:05 AM June 30, 2014

Kitchen sponges, hand soaps and toothpaste are among common household products that may include triclosan, a chemical to kill germs. On hands and around the home, it can prevent infections. But once that germ killer washes down the drain, it can become a menace. A new study finds that the chemical can thwart the process of cleaning sewage. That’s the dirty water flushed down toilets or washed down the drains of sinks.

Some bacteria thrive on sewage. They digest some of it and produce a gas cal...

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