Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would require manufacturers of antibacterial and antimicrobial hand soaps to prove the chemicals used in them are safe as well as effective.
In the agency release, it stressed that millions of Americans use these products believing them to aid in preventing germs from spreading, but there is no current evidence that they are any better at preventing illness than if one were to wash using plain soap and water.
Concerns have been mounting for years, but new evidence has emerged that some of the chemicals used in soaps as well as other common household products are likely doing more harm than good.
These products have been in use for four decades now, with numerous studies revealing a massive amount of evidence that they may be harmful to both human health and the environment. While public health experts applaud this proposal, manufacturers argue that these substances are proven safe.
Potential risks to human health
The F.D.A is particularly concerned about the most commonly used antibacterial chemicals, triclosan and triclocarban.
These compounds may be contributing to the growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics in addition to wreaking havoc on the normal development of the reproductive system and metabolism.
Human studies have shown that triclosan has the ability to penetrate the skin and get into the bloodstream, while animal studies have demonstrated negative effects on thyroid, estrogen and testosterone systems.
In layman’s terms, the potential dangers of triclosan include:
- Impaired muscle function
- Increased instance of heart disease
- Could raise the risk of infertility
- Hormonal effects
- Early onset of puberty
Triclocarban is linked to problems in the androgen system, which is responsible for controlling the development and maintenance of male characteristics.
Potential risks to the environment
Researchers are still looking into the effect these chemicals have on our environment, including oceans, lakes and rivers. Millions of gallons of these compounds go down the drain and have been discovered in nearly 60 percent of sampled streams.
Not only has Triclosan been found to cause harm to humans, but it is also highly toxic to several types of algae which are imperative in complex aquatic ecosystems. The chemical has been detected in high concentrations in earthworms as well.
The FDA has given these manufacturers one year to comply. If they cannot provide compelling data that these chemicals are both safe and effective, they will be forced to remove them from their products.