The Danger of AntiBacterial Hand Soap

by Cynthia Kasper

Last week the National Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group, sued the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, contending that the FDA violated federal law in its delay over establishing safe conditions of use for the toxic chemicals triclosan and triclocarban.  In case you don't know, triclosan and triclocarban are the active ingredients found in most antibacterial hand soaps and hand sanitizers.  The suit seeks an order requiring the FDA to finish its study on the conditions of use by a specific deadline.  In 1978, according to the lawsuit, the FDA proposed to ban from interstate commerce both triclosan and triclocarban either six months or two years after publication of its final study, but no action was taken until 1994, when some ingredients were reclassified.  To this day they remain on the market and are unregulated.  While I have my own opinions on the delay, the take-away here is that these chemicals are toxic and have no place in our homes. Laboratory studies have shown that triclosan and triclocarban are endocrine-disruptors capable of interfering with hormones critical for normal development and reproduction. Such hormonal interference has the potential to cause long-term health problems including poor sperm quality and infertility, and damage to the developing brain leading to poor learning and memory. Several studies suggest that triclosan and triclocarban also may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  I shudder each time I walk into a public establishment and see anti-bacterial hand soap and hand sanitizers used with reckless abandon.  These products are found in doctors offices, hospitals, schools and libraries.  And while the intent is to keep our children safe, the outcome is quite the opposite.  

In all transparency, I am one of those moms who practice the 10-second rule.  If it falls on the floor and you pick it up within 10 seconds, it is still okay to eat.  I don't get freaked out by germs or fevers.  I do, however, use Thieves Foaming Hand Soap and Thieves Hand Sanitizer.  And I offer it freely to strangers on the train.  I do so because it is an effective non-toxic alternative AND it smells wonderful.  And while I question if the most effective way to deal with the triclosan debacle is through the judicial system, one thing I do know:  we vote with our dollars.  So, if you are going to use antibacterial hand soap and hand sanitizers, choose the highly effective yet non-toxic version: Thieves Foaming Hand Soap and Thieves Hand Sanitizer.  You might just be doing your part to ensure the survival of the species.


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