Target: Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration
Goal: Commend the Food and Drug Administration for proposing a ban on toxic substances contained in antibacterial soaps
Most household soaps labeled antibacterial actually have very little evidence to support that claim. To the contrary, instead of killing harmful bacteria on our skin, they contain toxic substances, most notably triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps. These substances may disrupt the body’s endocrine system, and come with other dangers to public health. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a ban that would require manufacturers to prove the safety of their antibacterial products, or pull them off the shelves.
When choosing between washing with regular soap versus antibacterial soap, regular soap seems to be the safer bet. In addition to there being no evidence to suggest that the chemicals rendering a product antibacterial actually provide added protection against germs, there is mounting concern that they lead to rising levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In other words, they do nothing more than regular soap to protect us from germs, and they create a breeding ground for bacteria that we will not be able to combat. Moreover, the chemicals have been added to numerous consumer products in recent years, such as cutting boards, toothpaste, household cleaners and socks.
Frightening new evidence concluded from groundbreaking research conducted by the Environmental Working Group shows that exposure to triclosan is pervasive. As one of the most frequently detected chemicals in United States water systems, it has been detected in the urine of 75% of the population. Another study showed the presence of the chemical in 100% of test subjects, which comprised of American girls, between the ages of 14 and 19.
The FDA plans to ban triclosan and about 22 other antibacterial chemicals after giving manufacturers a 180-day period to comment on the proposal. They will have an additional year to take the chemicals out of their products or take the products off store shelves. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a serious health risk, as is the danger to the human endocrine system as a result of ingesting triclosan. Banning these substances is a positive step toward addressing a major public health issue. Commend the FDA for making these strides.
Dear Ms. Hamburg,
The FDA’s recent proposal to ban antibacterial substances such as triclosan and triclocarban is a great stride toward protecting the public’s health. As new studies have shown, exposure to these chemicals is widespread, reaching nearly 75% of the United States’ population. As more and more people become concerned that antibacterial chemicals are doing more harm than good, it is encouraging to know that the problem is being addressed.
While it is problematic that manufacturers have failed to provide any compelling evidence to show that antibacterial soaps and cleaners actually protect against germs, it is more troubling to know that the chemicals in them could actually be contributing to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. With such a high rate of exposure to these chemicals, this could put our entire population at risk for a bacterial strain against which we cannot defend. By requiring manufacturers to take antibacterial substances out of their products, the FDA is reducing that likelihood, thereby protecting the public from harm. We commend you for proposing this ban.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: the Italian voice via Flickr