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There are lot's more important things going on in the world but let's not let this go by unnoticed.

FDA issues proposed rule to determine safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps
At issue: A huge percentage of soaps and other personal cleansers have been reengineered and re-marketed as anti-bacterial and therefore better! than their counterparts without these antibacterial properties.

Why it's an issue: The anti-bacterial action is caused by chlorine based chemicals either triclosan or triclocarban. These have been linked to potential health problems the most serious is endocrine disruption. There is also the problem that indiscriminate use of anti-bacterial medicines or chemicals can actually create an environment where bacteria can evolve into resistant bacteria. We're now in an arms race of bacteria vs. antibiotics.

Current FDA Stance: "[T]here is currently no evidence that [antibacterial soaps] are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. ... Due to consumers’ extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk."

The FDA is asking that manufactures provide data on how their products are more effective than plain soap and water "in preventing illness and spread of infection." Basically FDA is treating these chemicals like other drugs it regulates. This latest stance has more spine than before. Let's hope it holds up.

What I can't totally understand is why the soap industry is so beholden to these ostensibly harmful chemicals. I've thought of these possible reasons.

  1. You can charge more for antibacterial soap. Yes, it may seem like only pennies more per bar of soap or bottle of body wash but after millions upon millions of units it adds up.
  2. The value chain is simply delivering the chlorine compounds and the soap is just the delivery mechanism. I mean, could be, right? Easier for the chlorine to go down your shower drain unregulated a little bit per day than for it to be disposed of as regulated hazardous waste.
  3. Don't rock the boat. Whatever. It's soap. We're selling a ton of it. We've made investments and we don't want to see anything change.
  4. We're not the tobacco companies. The soap industry didn't bring you that shitty horrible chemical which the government eventually banned. And they banned it after we defended it to the hilt. And not everybody died of bacteria after that. In fact, no one did.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    "In text, use only a single word space after all sentence punctuation." - Oxford Style Manual, Oxford University Press, 2003.

    by shaggies2009 on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 08:17:13 AM PST

  •  Nice diary (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for explaining the issues so clearly.

    You kind of cover it #3 but I think you're leaving out the most obvious reason soap companies are selling it; people believe it works and are more likely to buy it. I know I've fallen into that trap in the past.

    •  People have been taught (0+ / 0-)

      to be afraid of germs. Now, obviously, some germs are going to make you sick, but plain soap and hot water will take care of them.

      My first lover's mother was a nurse, and her motto when the kids were growing up was:

      A dirty kid is a happy kid.
      meaning, of course, they they should be allowed to go out and play and get dirty, not that they never took baths.

      OTOH, my mother taught elementary school when I was growing up, and there was one kid with a terrible case of ringworm. The way my mother told the story (iirc), the kid's mom protested about how clean he was all the time -- two baths per day -- and the doc said that was the problem, he was TOO clean. (I wasn't there; that's just what Mom said.)

      But I don't think we'd have problems like C. difficile if it weren't for too many antibiotics being over-prescribed and overused in cattle, chickens, etc.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 12:02:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md

      remember being taught in school that the most important thing is the act of rubbing your hands together and getting between your fingers.  

  •  Yea! (3+ / 0-)

      This is great news.   Someone at the FDA finally asked the correct question.   That doesn't happen every day or often enough.

  •  good diary but I have a question (3+ / 0-)

    this is in the press release:

    Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products—for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps)—could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.
    your diary indicates that positive definitive links have been found. It's a small nit; the bigger reason to avoid antibacterial anything is their increasing resistance of a growing number of bacteria that cause illness, but I'm curious as to where that data came from.

    A lesson someone taught me some time ago: That soap may kill 99.9% of the bacteria on your counter but that .1% that lives is likely resistant and will be the ones that get to reproduce. I'm really glad someone at FDA finally saw what a lot of people saw years ago.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility (not an original but rather apt)

    by terrypinder on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 08:53:43 AM PST

  •  Next: Purell. Useless waste of money. nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, jan4insight

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 09:08:14 AM PST

  •  5. Consumers want/need anti-bacterial soap (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lonemorriscodem

    I buy soap with triclosan not because I like it but because it demonstrably helps my lifelong skin problems. Over the years, I've tried soap without triclosan many times for various periods of time and always within a week my problems increase and stay bad until I switch back to anti-bacterial soap. And, it doesn't seem to matter what brand I use as long as it has triclosan. So, for at least one well-informed consumer, the stuff works, fuck you very much FDA.

    As for point 1, I doubt that they make more profit from antibacterial soap by charging more. It's more likely they increase sales by offering choice (like offering different scents). Giving consumers choices is a good thing.

    "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

    by quill on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 09:14:42 AM PST

    •  Oddly enough, anti-bac soap gives me a rash. (4+ / 0-)

      So I no longer use it. Presto, no more hand rash.

    •  Antibacterial soaps will probably always (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jan4insight, quill, JamieG from Md

      be available to consumers like yourself who need genuinely them, perhaps by prescription.

      •  no doubt at a much higher price (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elmo, BlueJessamine

        I guess I'm trying to make the point that there may be lots of people like me who use antibacterial soap only because they need it (and possibly many who don't that would benefit). I hope that the FDA considers the possibility that a significant sub-population really benefits, even if not everyone does.

        I'm OK though with requiring manufacturers to demonstrate the effectiveness of triclosan over just soap and water, and if it has adverse hormonal effects for certain groups then it absolutely should be labeled.

        "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

        by quill on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 01:06:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  We 're a long way from (3+ / 0-)

      an outright ban on triclosan soap. The proposed rule only requires companies to submit data to back up their claims. Possible outcomes are 1) status quo 2) Triclosan remains but marketing claims are aligned to demonstrable benefits 3) triclosan / triclocarban are removed from OTC soap.

      I don't think it's cool to be down on the FDA for doing its job to protect public health. I didn't want to go into every aspect of the issue in this diary but I can assure you that the agency is not acting arbitrarily here.

      "In text, use only a single word space after all sentence punctuation." - Oxford Style Manual, Oxford University Press, 2003.

      by shaggies2009 on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 12:19:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think you're misunderstanding. No one is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quill, 1BQ

      banning triclosan.  Companies just have to prove that it works to make claims about it.  Right now, companies put triclosan in soap and get to claim that it's somehow more effective than regular soap.  The only thing that will change is that companies won't be able to claim the soap is more effective or has special properties.  But if Dial still wants to sell soap with triclosan, nothing is going to stop that.  

  •  Eat dirt (5+ / 0-)

    And get lots of dog kisses. Your immune system will thank you.

    Seriously, the obsession with sparkling clean germ free surfaces is fucked up.

     

    "If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out." Levon Helm

    by BOHICA on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 09:39:08 AM PST

    •  Funny story (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      misslegalbeagle

      Many years ago, my family used to go on summer vacation and stay at a cottage on a lake.  The cottages were along a dirt road and at the end of the store was a fisherman's store that also had a candy counter.  A friend and I had stopped at the store and bought some candy.  We were walking along the road when I dropped some.  My friend said, "God made dirt, dust it off and eat it."  I did.  A year or so later, this friend and I were at a home where the occupants were, shall we say, not known for cleanliness.  As it would happen, my friend was eating something, dropped it on the floor, and promptly threw it away.  I commented, "You said God made dirt.  Why didn't you eat it?".  He retorted, "Yeah, God made dirt, but not that kind."

  •  Following up on one point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    not a lamb, shaggies2009
    no evidence that [antibacterial soaps] are any more effective
    This is because most illness is caused by viruses, not bacteria.  Washing with regular soap or even just water(*) is going to be just as effective.  *Soap contains a polar and non-polar compound allowing dirt and grease (non polar) to be dissolved in water (polar).  Also, most of what is sold commercially as soap is more akin to detergent.

    Over the last couple of years, especially with the economic down turn, a lot of people have turned to crafting and other indy markets to make some extra money.  Soap making has become quite popular and you may be able to find a local vendor that makes wonderful soap.

  •  My Mom is 96 (0+ / 0-)

    she always said, when I was a kid, that "everybody needs to swallow a bushel basket of dirt before they die".  In her opinion, being allowed to play outside in the dirt was good for kids as it helped their immune systems.  She also believes that no medicine is really good for you, and apparently she was right -- at 96, she still takes NO medicine.  When they do try to give her some, she gets really awful allergic reactions.

    The GOP -- Hating Women, Gays and People of Color since 1854
    PS Despite the dumb screenname I picked, I'm female!

    by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 12:25:26 PM PST

  •  From Today's Federal Register (0+ / 0-)

    FDA  CONSUMER ANTISEPTICS
     PROPOSED RULES
    Safety and Effectiveness of Consumer Antiseptics:
    Safety and Effectiveness of Consumer Antiseptics; Topical Antimicrobial Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use; Proposed Amendment of the Tentative Final Monograph; Reopening of Administrative Record

    http://www.gpo.gov/...

  •  And you didn't even mention bleach (did you?) (0+ / 0-)

    which is the grand-daddy of all chlorine-based anti-bacterial strategies.

    But seriously folks, bacteria are your friends.  Don't believe it?  Just Google "fecal bacteriotherapy" and be prepared to be shocked and amazed (in a good way, of course!!)

  •  Good - spare us from more idiocy like (0+ / 0-)

    this:

    Oh, noes, there's germses on my clotheses!

    "'Patriotism' is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson, 1775

    preborner: (n.) one who believes that the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth.

    by 1BQ on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 04:07:12 PM PST

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