Maybe – if it’s antibacterial soap.
First, let me point out that ‘antibacterial’ soap is completely unnecessary. The FDA says so:
the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.
It’s a marketing ploy – a magic word on a label that is supposed to make you feel one particular soap is better than another. We’re scared of germs, and some sharp tack came up with ‘antibacterial’ soap to play to this fear.
And we fell for it.
Now it’s an antibacterial arms race of sorts. The chemical that gives soap – and a lot of other products – an antibacterial action is triclosan, which is a pesticide approved by the FDA in 1969 – betcha you won’t find that fact on the soap label.
There’s also the potential that the stuff can disrupt our endocrine systems – the system that regulates our hormones and can make us fat:
‘In animals studies triclosan lowers thyroid hormone levels
As well as a concern in the medical community that all this ‘antibacterial’ this and that is sort of a Crossfit workout for germs, making them stronger and more resistant as they evolve to resist these chemicals – causing more antibiotic-resistant germs to exist – which means that when you *do* actually get a bacterial infection that is life-threatening, it is becoming more likely that docs will have a hard time finding an antibiotic that can effectively treat it.
But let’s not quibble over these minor issues, right? We’re going for bigger fish here – new research that shows that triclosan actually weakens your muscles. If you’re not a jock and think this doesn’t concern you, remember: your heart is a muscle. While the entire article is worth a careful read, let me cherry-pick a single quote from a probably disreputable source – Smithsonian Magazine:
”The effects of triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic,” said co-author Nipavan Chiamvimonvat. “Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models.” He speculates that in some cases, triclosan may be responsible for exacerbating heart problems in patients with an underlying condition.
The good news is the FDA is ‘looking into the matter’ at present and might or might not do something about this ingredient appearing in adhesives, fabrics, vinyl, plastics (toys, toothbrushes), polyethylene, polyurethane, polypropylene, floor wax emulsions, textiles (footwear, clothing), caulking compounds, sealants, rubber, carpeting, and a wide variety of other products. They are going to ‘begin the process of reviewing in 2013‘.
Don’t you feel better?
Finishing up my little rant here, the Smithsonian piece ends with a quote from one of the researchers. It’s a classic of scientific understatement:
”Triclosan can be useful in some instances, however it has become a ubiquitous ‘value added’ marketing factor that actually could be more harmful than helpful,” said study co-author Bruce Hammock.