FDA catches up to the science on antibacterial agents

With cold and flu germs right on your doorstep (or more likely, right on your doorknob), we need to talk about how to fight them.

First off, skip the “antibacterial” soap and hand sanitizer.

That advice shouldn’t come as any surprise, if you’ve been regularly reading my Dispatches. Antibacterial products commonly contain a toxic, dangerous chemical called triclosan. Ironically, triclosan actually helped create the dangerous superbug crisis.

But finally, last September, the FDA announced a ban on the use of triclosan in antibacterial soaps and washes, as I predicted it would. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’re safe just yet…

More than 2,000 antibacterial products contain toxic chemicals

Actually, the FDA’s new ban covers 18 other toxic chemicals, besides triclosan. For example, the new ban also covers a variation of triclosan called triclocarban, which is used in hard soaps. The FDA estimates the vast majority of more than 2,000 different antibacterial products contain one or more of the banned ingredients.

The Environmental Working Group has been trying for 10 years, based on the science, to press for such a ban in the interests of human health and the environment. Some manufacturers, including Proctor & Gamble, had already taken steps to phase out some of the banned ingredients.

But it’s a big job.

So — manufacturers still have another year to remove these ingredients…or take their products off the market.

But don’t worry, plain soap will still be around. And as I always remind you, plain, old soap and water remove germs just fine — without having to add any toxic chemicals.

New ban cites decades’ worth of data

With this ban, the FDA finally admits there is no evidence that antibacterial agents like triclosan are more effective at preventing the spread of germs than soap and water. They also now admit there is evidence these artificial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.

In fact, the FDA’s ban cites data showing long-term exposure to these ingredients could cause hormonal disruptions in humans and animals. They also cite data showing that these ingredients lead to bacterial resistance, or superbugs.

Of course, as I’ve told you before, my daughter demonstrated that antibacterial hand sanitizers cause bacterial resistance in her middle-school science project in Bethesda, Maryland, back in 1995. She was offered a grant by the National Hygiene Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio. It took 20 years for the news to travel 10 miles up the road to the bureaucrats at FDA in Rockville, MD.

FDA puts the cart before the horse

I’m glad to see the FDA finally taking a step in the right direction. But it still puts the cart before the horse.

In fact, prior to the ban, the FDA asked manufacturers for data showing that these artificial chemical ingredients (already on the market) are safe. And they asked for evidence that these ingredients are more effective than soap and water in preventing spread of infections and illnesses. But the manufacturers never provided the data

Hold on right there.

Isn’t the FDA first supposed to get data proving the safety of a new product BEFORE it goes on the market? Then, if the data shows the product is safe, they are supposed to get more data showing it is effective? Big pharma must follow that process with drug approvals. (Or at least, in theory, they must follow it. Problem is, they just manipulate the data.)

But when it comes to artificial environmental chemicals, manufacturers seem to get a free pass from the EPA and the FDA alike. (And that’s just one narrow part of the government alphabet toxic soup.)

Plus, the FDA didn’t ban these ingredients in hand sanitizers, wipes, or antibacterial products used in hospitals and health-care settings. Instead, they requested data on these hospital-based products. (Again, the cart before the horse.)

In addition, the FDA said it would defer a ban on three other ingredients used in consumer hygiene products — benzalkonium chloride, benethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol — for one year to allow manufacturers to submit data.

In a last-ditch effort (before they just try to pour these chemicals into a ditch), the Washington lobbyist group — the “American Cleaning Institute” — claims that antibacterial products “continue to be safe and effective products for millions of people every single day.”

We definitely do a need a major cleaning in the halls of Washington, D.C., and it finally looks like we are in the process of getting it — but it is not likely to come from the American Cleaning Institute.

When it comes to good hygiene and preventing the spread of colds and flus,
artificial “antibacterial” soaps and sanitizers just don’t wash. And, as I have warned for 20 years, they never did.


“FDA bans common ingredients in antibacterial soaps and body washes,” Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) 9/2/2016