Although from what I’m reading on all the blogs, making resolutions is bad/leads to failure and despair/doesn’t help, I tend to set a few, realistic new goals for myself at the start of a year. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m a firm believer that there is power in words and that goal-setting is an important part of success and happiness. Perhaps that’s just me, though. Maybe you’ve learned that resolutions don’t work for you, and you’ve given them up. Well, I’m here to ask you to give one, little, teensy resolution a shot this year: Give up your antibacterial products. It’s in hand soaps, dish soap and even laundry detergents (don’t you just hate it when you don’t sterilize a t-shirt and, of course, end up with strep throat? Ugh.) Giving up these products is not hard, and it will save you money to use more earth and human friendly natural cleaners like vinegar and castle and bar soaps. Furthermore, with 40 years of research conducted, it looks like the benefit of these antibacterial products is basically nil.
I was pretty shocked when I saw The New York Times headline shortly before Christmas: F.D.A. Questions Safety of Antibacterial Soaps. I have a relatively obsessive hatred of all the insane antibacterial products on the market, and with the fact that the regulatory agency was taking notice did indeed make me happy. Nonetheless, I was surprised. As I learned in this excellent and brief Frontline Documentary about the issue of drug-resistant bacteria (that you can and should take an hour to watch for free, online), public health officials are pretty riled up about the serious dangers of drug-resistant bacteria. There is evidence that the overuse of these antibacterial products are contributing to the problem, and there is shockingly little evidence that the actually do any good. Given that the largest (but surely not the last) outbreak to-date of one of these resistant strains (CRE) has just been reported in Illinois, this is something we might all want to be concerned about.
One of the other main issues that the FDA is looking at right now is not at all related to the issue of bacterial resistance. Instead, it’s another pretty terrifying issue: the fact that a key ingredient that makes these soaps and detergents antibacterial is triclosan which has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor in multiple animal species. It has not, however, been proven more effective at preventing sickness than plain old soap and water.
The endocrine system is kind of the management system for hormones, so I would personally like mine (and that of any little girls, boys and fetuses I know) to function as best as it can. Disruption of the endocrine system has been found to impair thyroid function, impact sexual development (anyone else wonder why so many 9-year-old girls are getting boobs and periods, lately?), cause learning disabilities and let’s face it, the list of other issues that could occur when you mess with your hormones is pretty much endless.
So, although, it’s a bit belated, not directly related to fermentation and ranty as hell, I’m asking all of you to give up these products. I think most people who use them think they’re protecting their children, but evidence shows that’s not even happening in the short run, and in the long run, using these products is extremely damaging to the potential well-being of your children (and yourself!).
And with that, I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2014! We’ll be back to our regular posting schedule next week!
PS – I haven’t mentioned Purell here, which also isn’t efficacious at actually preventing the spread of illness than soap and water washing. It is more effective at destroying bacteria, which all fermentos will know is not actually a good thing. Hand sanitizer is mostly alcohol, which dries your skin horribly and kills bacteria that you might actually want living happy lives on your skin. It is likely that its bacteria-killing properties will come under review by the FDA soon, if what I’m reading is true, so why not ditch that now and be ahead of the curve?