A few different factors prompted me to write this article; wondering about vaccinating my kids against H1N1, thinking of ways to reduce their exposure to flu and germs this school year, information regarding antibacterial and if it does more harm than good, and wanting to inform parents about the latest synthetic chemical to watch for called Triclosan.
I have not yet formed an opinion on vaccinating my kids against H1N1 if it’s made available in my community or school district. My mom who is a dedicated and very knowledgeable nurse keeps mentioning hand washing is key to protecting kids from the spread of germs. Every newspaper I read confirms this too. I have to admit this isn’t a huge focus in my boys day-to-day routine so I hope their school will encourage more trips to the restroom to complete this seemingly simple task. The thought of just including a bottle of antibacterial hand lotion in their lunchbox crossed my mind, but I’ve since changed my mind since researching antibacterial products.
The active ingredient Triclosan is most often found in antibacterial products and like most synthetic chemicals was first introduced for a very high functional and specific purpose ~ for use in surgical scrub rooms and inside hospitals in 1972. By 2006/07 the Canadian government had registered 1,200 brands of cosmetics containing Triclosan. How could a brand limited to hospital use, build the brand ‘antibacterial’ and creep into places such as chopsticks, garden hoses, socks, personal care products, and more? Very direct and aggressive marketing! The companies that create these untested chemicals find new ways to profit and before you know it the chemical exists in products where it’s really not necessary. The branding for this particular phenomenon had to look no further than parents and consumers concerned about germs. Let me interject that a few years ago when I frequented indoor play centers with my boys, you could not find a mother that didn’t greet her child leaving one of the play areas and immediately wipe their hands with antibacterial wipes. I was one of those mothers, so I shocked by the information about antibacterial when I read the chapter focusing on this subject from ‘Slow Death By Rubber Duck’. Here is something scary to think about that I learned from the book. If you think of ‘antibacterial’ as a synthetic chemical and how damaging that is for the environment (sits in landfills forever and pollutes our waterways) and our body and then learn where it exists. For example, in the height of the antibacterial phenomenon, the toy giant Hasbro, proudly produced several toys made with Triclosan, marketing them as antibacterial and claiming it would protect children from disease. Yuck!
So what exactly is so bad about Triclosan? I will quote the amazing authors of the book ‘Slow Death By Rubber Duck’ for some help.
The over-triclosanitization of the planet wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t for a few niggling problems:
1) Mounting evidence that, in many products, it works no better than competing products that have no Triclosan
2) Increasing levels in people and the environment that have now been linked to health problems – and the biggie:
3) Good reason to think that it’s contributing to bacterial resistance, aka the rise of “superbugs”
Personal care products I try to stick to only organic because of sensitive skin issues in our household. Experts are recommending soap and water and lots of handwashing to reduce germ sharing. The use of ‘antibacterial’ ingredients and products has simply become too wide spread and has now found it’s way into products that have no need for these ingredients. With 95% of products containing Triclosan going down the drain, it’s just another pollutant that has leached into the environment and again, this synthetic chemical has rapidly spread to consumers without adequate regulation.
When Rick Smith, the co-author of Slow Death By Rubber Duck tested his levels after deliberately using products high in Triclosan levels he was shocked by the readings. Here are the products that Rick used to jack his level of Triclosan from 2.47 ng/ml to 7,180 ng/ml (!!) after a 24 hour exposure. I’m sure one of these products is sitting in your bathroom right now as Triclosan is in toothpaste and many bathroom products. Check out his shopping list that had these levels of Triclosan so elevated:
Colgate Total toothpaste
Clean & Clear foaming facial cleaner
Dial Complete triclosan hand soap
Gillette shave gel
Right Guard deodorant
Dettol pine fragrance shower soap
Dawn Ultra Concentrated dish liquid/antibacterial hand soap
J Cloth (apple blossom scent with Microban)
So again, after I promise myself I’ll write a short post, I write a long one <grin> I can’t help but close quoting Rick Smith at the end of the ‘antibacterial’ chapter in his book. “If chemicals like Triclosan aren’t necessary, are possibly dangerous, and are foisted on us everyday without our knowledge or consent – why are we using them?”
So before you send your kids back-to-school, review hand washing basics:
~ wash hands with soap and water for 30 seconds and often
~ avoid products labelled antibacterial that contain the ingredient Tricolsan
If we can all improve on hand washing habits, hopefully the need to not worry about ‘superbugs’ will be eliminiated from back-to-school planning for our kids.