As of January 1, 2017, antibacterial soaps are banned in the state of Minnesota. The problem is a chemical called triclosan that is an active ingredient in approximately 75 percent of antibacterial soap products. In recent years, the chemical has been proven harmful to humans.
Although Minnesota is the first state to take this position, other states will likely do the same. In December of 2013, an FDA ruling required that the makers of antibacterial soap prove that their products are safe and more effectual than soap and warm water.
According to the FDA, no evidence exists to show that soaps with triclosan are any more effective at getting rid of germs than plain old soap and water. Recent studies show that the chemical disrupts critical hormones for development and reproduction in lab animals and contributes, as well, to resistant bacteria development. In fact, nationwide, triclosan is now being heavily regulate–and for good reasons.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published research that suggests triclosan can hinder muscle contractions in humans at cellular levels. The chemical also inhibits the functioning of muscles in both mice and fish. One of the researchers, Isaac Pessah, said in an interview with Smithsonian that triclosan can be found in nearly every home and is also found frequently in the environment. Now there is solid evidence that triclosan is concerning to environmental and human health.
The investigation looked into triclosan’s effect on human skeletal muscle cells, as well as the heart, in a laboratory setting. The researchers found that triclosan disrupted the communications between the proteins that allow muscles to function, thereby causing both types of cells to fail. They decided to test these results on mice and fish. The fish were rendered less effective at swimming after they were exposed to the chemical. The heart muscle functions of the mice showed reductions by 25 percent, with an 18 percent reduction in grip strength.
It is clear that triclosan has negative effects on the functioning of muscles, and researchers involved in the study are legitimately concerned. Another researcher, Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, said that not only were the cardiac function effects dramatic, but that triclosan behaved like a powerful cardiac depressant.
Antibacterial soaps have received a lot of attention in the past few years. Before the triclosan controversy, it was the alcohol content that caused a problem for consumers. There is also the issue of the soaps killing all bacteria on people’s hands. Some bacteria are beneficial and aid in keeping immune systems strong. Eradicating these friendly bacteria is not advisable. Because of these concerns, many people have already turned away from using antibacterial products in their homes. If you wash your hands at the grocery store or gas station, however, chances are you are using antibacterial soap.
Minnesota’s ban on antibacterial soaps, though still a couple years down the road, has at least raised a red flag for consumers who had not considered the issue. They are now armed with some necessary knowledge about the dangers of using the harmful soap products. Truly clean hands are as easy as warm soapy water and scrubbing for as long as it takes to sing, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
By Stacy Lamy