Posted by: laughs4dads | June 11, 2010

Better Living Through Chemistry

Today my self-declared Kids’ Safety Month continues with a look at a chemical that may be putting your child in mortal danger. Or not.

It used to be that you’d assume that anything you could buy in your supermarket was safe to give your family. Sure, that sometimes turned out not to be the case, but, hey, anyone can make a mistake, right? And we didn’t get all pissy about it, did we?

Of course, in those days, the FDA was trying.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as you know, is in charge of screening products before they come to market. Their approach now in doing this seems to be, “Gee, maybe that won’t kill too many people.” Apparently, if the projected mortality rate of the new product is somewhere between Ted Bundy and Adolf Hitler, it gets the FDA seal of approval.

Lately, I’ve been reading about something called triclosan (pronounced “uh oh”), which is an ingredient in antibacterial soaps and other handwashes, as well as some toothpaste and beauty products. Studies have shown that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

In addition, according to a posting on the FDA’s own Web site, tricosan has been shown to alter hormone regulation, also referred to as endocrine disruption, in animal studies.

But don’t worry. The FDA also tells us that triclosan has not been shown to be harmful to humans and that further study is needed.

You know the old trick about testing for radiation or poison gas by exposing a bird to it? I guess that wouldn’t fly for the FDA. “Well,” they would say, “the parakeet died, but that doesn’t prove it’s harmful to humans. By the way, am I glowing?”

The reason I’m talking about triclosan in this blog about parenting is because it may be particularly harmful for children. In fact, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) has called for a ban on the chemical, stating that “…there are many troubling questions about triclosan’s effectiveness and potentially harmful effects, especially for children.”

In other words, by making your kids clean their hands to avoid catching a cold, you may be screwing up their hormones. And believe me, you do not want to be screwing around with a kid’s hormones, especially if they’re about to hit puberty.

Anyway, here is what your FDA would like you to know about triclosan (bold comments are mine):

  1. Triclosan is not known to be hazardous to humans. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer that the FDA made statements like “Triclosan is known to be safe for humans.” It’s almost as if they’re applying “innocent until proven guilty” to chemicals.
  2. FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time. Well, do they have sufficient safety evidence that we should be using it?
  3. In light of questions raised by recent animal studies of triclosan, FDA is reviewing all of the available evidence on this ingredient’s safety in consumer products. FDA will communicate the findings of its review to the public in spring 2011. Sure, no rush on that. And you think it’s perfectly safe for our kids to use while you use it to turn lab rats into hormonal monsters from some 1950’s sci-fi movie?
  4. At this time, FDA does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. WTF????? The government agency charged with protecting us from harmful products is saying that triclosan, which it approved, may or may not be harmful, and doesn’t do anything good? Then what is the point?

I mean, am I missing something here? At least Red Dye Number 2 did something.


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