Finally!  The FDA has a new position on antibacterial soap: Manufacturers have to show that it’s both safe and more effective than simply washing with conventional soap and water, or they have to take it off the shelves in the next few years.  Now, we just need to worry about getting the right data through all the channels and not let pseudo-science and false facts end up as a “published fact”.

 Triclosan is the active ingredient in about 75 percent. of liquid antibacterial soaps and 30 percent of bars. While it was originally used in hospital settings, somehow it transitioned into home products and personal care products during the 1990’s, eventually becoming a $1 billion industry. This chemical is now added to hand gels, cutting boards, and you’ll never believe this one… mattress pads!!  It has entered our realm of reality that we will be healthier if we literally destroy every microorganism known as bacteria in our environment!!

People assume that triclosan’s existance in our everyday lives is with the knowledge that it is safe for us and our environment.  I mean, products are approved by the FDA, right?  The original intent was for the FDA to come up with a set of guidelines for the use of triclosan in home care and personal products back in 1972, but finally got around to producing a final draft in December 2013!!

But triclosan’s use in home over-the-counter products was never fully evaluated by the FDA—incredibly, the agency was ordered to produce a set of guidelines for the use of triclosan in home products way back in 1972, but only published its final draft on December 16 of last year. Their report, the product of decades of research, notes that the costs of antibacterial soaps likely outweigh the benefits, and forces manufacturers to prove otherwise.  Manufacturers have until 2016 to prove it or they are to pull the products from shelves.

Why wait?  Here’s three reasons you should stop NOW!

1. Soap and water works just as well

“I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an antibacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families,” Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the FDA’s drug center, told the AP. “But we don’t have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water.”

As mentioned in the announcement, 42 years of FDA research—along with countless independent studies—have produced no evidence that triclosan provides any health benefits as compared to old-fashioned soap.

Manufacturer’s claim that soaps with triclosan kill slightly more bacteria than the conventional soap & water approach, but you must analyze the testing method and what results you’re going for. While tests that measures only the number of bacteria on a person’s hands after use of the triclosan product do show that soaps with triclosan kill slightly more bacteria, the use of triclosan doesn’t show any evidence that triclosan can reduce the transmission of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.  This is probably because the antibacterial soaps specifically target bacteria, but not the viruses that cause the majority of seasonal colds and flus.

2. They pose health risks to you

First – triclosan opens the door to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The reason that the FDA is making manufacturers prove these products’ efficacy is because of a range of possible health risks associated with triclosan, and bacterial resistance is first on the list.  It’s frustrating to see scientists “wonder” if these techniques produce antibiotic-resistant bacteria when history proves that it almost always does. No matter whether it has been weed killer or anti-bacterial medications, the plant or strain always mutates according to its environment.

This is currently a huge problem in medicine—the World Health Organization calls it a “threat to global health security.” Some bacteria species (most notably, MRSA) have even acquired resistance to several different drugs, complicating efforts to control and treat infections as they spread. Health officials say that further research is needed before we can say that triclosan is fueling resistance, but several studies have hinted at the possibility.  So, do we wait until the house of cards have fallen before we say, “oops!”?

Second – products with triclosan  might serve  as endocrine disruptors.  Studies have found that triclosan interfere’s with the thyroid hormone in rats, frogs and other animals.  This type of response in humans would be the precursor to problems like infertility, artificially-advanced early puberty, obesity and cancer.  While these effects can be observed in humans, there has not been a straight line drawn to say they have been caused by triclosan.  The FDA has finally admitted that the animal studies do produce some concern, and with the minimal benefits of using triclosan over a long term, the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Third – other health problems are myriad.  Allergies, including peanut allergies and hay fever, have been observed in children with prolonged exposure to triclosan.. Some scientists think this could be a result of reduced exposure to bacteria, which might be needed in order for an immune system to develop properly.

Another study found evidence that triclosan interfered with muscle contractions in human cells, as well as muscle activity in live mice and minnows. This is especially concerning given other findings that the chemical can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream more easily than originally thought.

Here’s a scary fact:  A 2008 survey found triclosan in the urine of 75 percent of people tested.

3. They harm the environment.

When we use a lot of triclosan in soap, that means a lot of triclosan gets flushed down the drain. Research has shown that small quantities of the chemical can persist after treatment at sewage plants, and as a result, USGS surveys have frequently detected it in streams and other bodies of water. Once in the environment, triclosan can disrupt algae’s ability to perform photosynthesis.

The chemical is also fat-soluble—meaning that it builds up in fatty tissues—so scientists are concerned that it can biomagnify, appearing at greater levels in the tissues of animals higher up the food chain, as the triclosan of all the plants and animals below them is concentrated. Evidence of this possibility was turned up in 2009, when surveys of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of South Carolina and Florida found concerning levels of the chemical in their blood.

What Should You Do?

The CDC recommends the time-tested advice you probably heard as a child: wash your hands with conventional soap and water. That’s because while alcohol from hand sanitizer kills bacteria, it doesn’t actually remove dirt or anything else you may have touched. But a simple hand wash should do the trick. The water doesn’t need to be hot, and you’re best off scrubbing for about 30 seconds to get properly clean.

What would a Green Tiger do?

Use safe, environmentally-friendly hand washing soap by Shaklee!handwashing-concentrate

“Go wash your hands.” This super mild, sudsy wash makes it so nice to do as you’ve always been told. It has wheat germ oil and algae extract to moisturize; soy protein to condition; aloe, marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), and linden flower (Tilia cordata) extracts to soothe; and rosemary and arnica extracts to energize. So now it’s more like, “Go take your hands to the spa.”