So what if is kills 99.9% of all bacteria: that sound really good, but do you know what else it’s killing?
The Food and Drug Administration here in the U.S. is deciding if a drug called triclosan is dangerous. The substance is used in everything from clothing, to kitchen utensils, cosmetics, body washes and even toothpaste and toys.
You might not think of it as such, but antibacterial soap is considered an over-the-counter drug mainly because of the active ingredient triclosan.
Triclosan has been around since the 1960s and was originally used in hospitals to stem bacterial growth before surgery. In the 90s, fueled by an anti-germ fear it managed to creep into household items. Heck you can even find it in clothing and furniture.
The thing is there’s some evidence, not enough to form any conclusions, to indicate that this antibacterial substance might be harmful to humans.
Triclosan has been shown to cause hormonal changes, endocrine and immune system problems and even sterility in other animals—not to mention the continued use of antibiotics is creating stronger bacteria. So how, if it has the potential to be bad for us, did this drug get into everything?
Congress only pass laws requiring the inspection of ingredients in the early 70s, and this drug was already in broad use. We are just getting around to it now based on pressure for consumer groups and a few studies that were released exploring the drug’s impact.
It has taken decades for the FDA and the EPA to decide if this drug is even safe. When an animal comes in contact with triclosan, it is absorbed right through the skin. If you use antibacterial soaps or instant sanitizers that aren’t alcohol-based, you are exposing yourself to a dose of triclosan.
Now the FDA is thinking of banning this substance for human use entirely and the implications of that are crazy. Triclosan is part of a one billion dollar a year cleaning and manufacturing industry.
It’s not just side-effects from exposure we should be worried about, but the creation of super bacteria. If you kill 99.9% of all bacteria, the one percent that survives is super strong and replicates and the weaker generation of that second one are killed off by more antibacterial and then that .1% lives, and that generation is even stronger than the last one. You do that again and again and again…SUPERBUGS! Now that doesn’t sound like a good thing does it?
In response to all of the hubbub, a number of hospitals including cleaning companies have already removed triclosan in advance of a possible consumer backlash.
What other crazy things are we exposed to everyday that aren’t tested and proven safe? We are not exactly sure. The FDA was created to regulate food and drugs, so even though things like cosmetics and clothing contain parabens and other untested and undisclosed chemicals, the FDA has no authority to regulate those ingredients.
People get all excited about antibacterial ingredients for one simple reason: fear of germs. But the CDC says washing your hands with regular soap for 20 seconds will kill just as many germs as these chemicals, not to mention, germ-exposure is kind of part of a natural and robust immune system development.