A major change is coming to what is hopefully one of the most-used health products in your home: your everyday soap.
For years, antibacterial soaps have thrived on the market due to perceived confidence on the part of consumers towards the term “antibacterial” — specifically, the effectiveness of antibacterial chemicals to kill germs and keep you as clean as possible. Yet, there simply was never any research indicating that the benefits of including antibacterial chemicals outweighed the substantial risks. In fact, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble were already deep into their plans to phase out the chemicals voluntarily.
The main argument against Triclosan and Triclocarban (the antibacterial chemicals in question) ties back to the same reason why physicians forcefully insist you always complete a round of antibiotics. Infections and bacteria can become resistant to our ‘weapons’ against them, evolving over time into what could be a disastrous public health crisis. When we overuse antibacterials unnecessarily, we’re essentially strengthening infections’ resistance to drugs over time, pushing us closer and closer to the brink of being unable to treat some serious conditions.
What’s more, studies show that children can have their still-developing hormones negatively affected by these powerful chemicals. Essentially, the FDA is saying that putting antibacterial chemicals in everyday hand soap is like using a sledgehammer to pound a tiny nail. It’s simply overkill, and is contributing to a less safe society in the process.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted some of the major risks involved in antibacterial soaps, including some rather surprising findings. For instance, Dr. Rolf Halden, a prominent biologist, found Triclocarban traces sitting in Jamaica Bay in New York City that date back to the 1960s. This should send a chill up any physician, scientist, or consumer’s spine, as it indicates that these chemicals can stick around in our bodies for far longer than anyone initially imagined.
Antibacterial soaps first came to the forefront when they gained popularity in hospital operating rooms around the country, where surgeons relied on the chemicals to ensure a thoroughly clean scrub. However, the marketing departments of various soap companies quickly realized they could cash in on this perceived advantage in soap efficacy, and began inserting Triclosan and Triclocarban into many of their consumer products.
Today, it is estimated that as many as 40% of consumer hand soap contains antibacterial chemicals. If the FDA has its way, it won’t be long before that number drops to zero.