Our Antibacterial Overload

Antibacterial products are everywhere—and they"re impacting our health and environment.

U.S. consumers spend almost $1 billion per year on antibacterial soaps, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and our health and environment pay the price. The report, "Not Effective and Not Safe," finds that up to 75% of liquid soaps, as well as bar soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, cleansing lotions, acne creams, and wipes contain triclosan or triclocarban—chemicals marketed as reducing the number of bacteria or "germs." But despite winning Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, these chemicals have been shown to have serious consequences in laboratory animals. In labs, triclosan interferes with animals" thyroid hormone, necessary for proper growth and brain development.

One study in male rats, writes the NRDC, "reported that triclosan decreased sperm count, damaged the male reproductive system, and disrupted male hormone production." It’s possible that these chemicals pose similar risks to humans—and already three-quarters of Americans ages 6 to over 65 have triclosan in their urine, according to the report. What’s more, the antimicrobial chemicals pollute streams and waterways where triclosan can turn into "highly toxic dioxin compounds." The NRDC is calling on the FDA to ban these antimicrobials from consumer products.