Soap and how it may kill you (eventually)*


The FDA recently announced that antibacterial soaps that contained a list of 17 chemicals were to be banned unless these were removed by September 2017. This action comes from a concern that these chemicals were doing more harm than good or had no benefit whatsoever. Certain chemicals were linked by experts as being an endocrine disruptor (namely triclosan) as well as possibly increasing antibacterial resistance to antibacterials and antibiotics.

So let me focus on triclosan itself. It has been around for a long time, appearing during the 1970’s as a standard hospital scrub.  It has since ballooned into more products including soaps and toothpaste. Wait…why is it in toothpaste? I have no idea why, but Colgate toothpaste contains triclosan and will continue to contain it since this ruling only applies to hand soaps.

Here’s the kicker: the FDA had proposed legislation to limit triclosan in soap, but never fully enacted it. So what if the FDA never did? At least they did something about it now? Well, yes it looks great and all until you realize that this was proposed back in 1978 and had not been acted upon until recently. According to a recent study, triclosan can now be found in around 75% of the population in the United States.

Believe it or not the primary way of getting triclosan into your body is not eating hand soap, unless you were me when I was about five. It is actually coming through your drinking water. Now a quick google search would show you that it breaks down in water and at water treatment plants so we should be fine; except it wouldn’t be in this situation had it actually broken down. Some of it does not actually break down and can re-enter the water supply, or it can form into other compounds that cannot be broken down.

Great, so you got triclosan possibly in your system now. All is lost, let the giant meteor come and strike us all out of existence. Well how about I give you some possibly good news so you can give that meteor a rain check. Triclosan, according to the University of Michigan study, was no more effective than normal hand soap at eliminating bacteria. It also is only part of the growing problem of antibiotic resistant diseases. Wait, I meant more bad news. Sorry to get your hopes up, but not really.

Sometimes referred to as superbugs, these common ailments have developed resistances to the medicines designed to treat them. Some are naturally occurring, but of course humans have a role in it as well. So it is just the hand soaps creating these superbugs? Not at all. For example, a common practice in the livestock industry is to use antibiotics in the cattle feed to promote growth and stave off infection. Now if you have ever read that X product kills 99.9% of germs/bacteria, you’re wondering what happens to that .1% that doesn’t get killed off. Well they are either taken care of naturally or they get to multiply into stronger organisms. Try to kill these with a stronger medicine and you get the same result until you eventually have nothing to kill it with.

Now antibiotics, when used for the purpose of actually treating an illness, are not a problem. Finish the medicine as prescribed and you’re fine. It’s the pills that get flushed or put into organisms that do not need it at the time that causes the problem.

Here’s something to put more perspective to the problem and ease your mind: 23,000 people each year in the United States die from antibiotic-resistant infections. This is expected to increase in the future. But at least some of your soaps won’t be causing it.

*Title is not an actual state of fact and is exacerbating the truth that you will die someday. It is stated that it MAY kill rather than WILL. I am protected from all lawsuits due to my diplomatic immunity from my made up micro-nation that I run from my basement. Exclusions apply see store for details. Offer not valid in OH, KY, NJ, NY, HI, and Romania.


Links for the interested:

New York Times Article

Article from Natural Resource Defense Council

Study from University of Michigan

Josh Obermeyer


3 thoughts on “Soap and how it may kill you (eventually)*

  1. I found your post really interesting. I took a class that talked about chemicals and risks associated with the chemicals, and it was amazing to realize how many human made junk is out there and how many things it is in. Usually chemicals are used in products for preservation or for coloring, which is sometimes completely unnecessary. I believe triclosan is used in toothpaste to kill bad germs in our mouth? Just a guess though. Many companies evade restriction with loopholes, which is a frustrating part of the chemical business and if you are working for the EPA (which has only tested about 10% of chemicals that we know of, and hasn’t even tested them when they are combined with other chemicals).

    Another reason there is chemicals in our water supply is because people are flushing their medicines or dumping them down the drain when they are expired or when they don’t need them anymore, like you said. Our water treatment plants are not equipped to remove antibiotics and medicines like this, and yes they do stay in our water as well. Another issues with antibiotics is that people get the prescription, but stop taking them once they feel better. The drugs are meant to fully kill the bacteria, so if people stop taking them before the bacteria is completely wiped out, it can develop resistance and require stronger or prolonged drugs next time. ANOTHER issue with antibiotics is that some doctors prescribe them when it is not necessary, and then people develop resistance to them, making them ineffective. I really appreciated your post and the picture was quite fitting.


  2. I looked at the title of this post and thought “oh no another one of my everyday use products that might kill me!” It seems like all the time there is another chemical in one of our products that we thought was safe, but upon further inspection we find it is actually detrimental to our health. a million examples of this can be brought up. in today’s age, if you look on the ingredients of your household products you find a huge list of long words that you are really unsure of what they are. It is hard to do, but it would be a great idea to learn about what is in all of your household products. In one of the classes i took last year I analyzed my deodorant, shaving cream, and toothpaste and found they are all filled with toxins. These are products that I use everyday! We shouldn’t stop using these products, but instead we would find safer alternatives with simple ingredients that we know are safe

    -Tom Walters


  3. I first learned about the harsh chemicals in different items when I took Introduction to Environmental Studies 2 and it really opened my eyes. But when I heard about how antibacterial soap could actually be bad for you, I was shocked. Here soap is supposed to keep you from becoming sick when in reality it actually does more harm than good! Its also very disconcerting how openly the US lets chemicals that are otherwise banned everywhere else, to be in common house hold items like sunscreen or hairspray.


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