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