Angry Moms Love Antibacterial Soap Despite Toxic Chemicals?

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by Mark Bishop, Vice President of Policy and Communications

Wow. Seventy-five percent of moms would be “ANGRY” if the government took antibacterial soap off the market.

That is, of course, according to polling results [pdf] from the American Cleaning Institute, a cleaning chemical trade association that doesn’t want the federal government to remove a toxic chemical, triclosan, from the market.

Now, I always take polls with a grain a salt, because polling data frequently is as much about how one asks a question as it is about the actual answer. My informal polling of my friends (who tend to be environmentally conscious), shows that 100 percent of them don’t know squat about the chemical tricolsan. Most people haven’t heard of it, much less gathered extensive knowledge about its potential risks or benefits. So a poll about anti-microbial hand soaps (which contain triclosan) would probably lead to some data that isn’t too helpful.

With a quick reading of the Cleaning Institute poll, I can completely understand how they got such a strong response -- I’ll call it lack of context (others may call it something else). So let’s play a little “what if.”

What if we took their question...

If the government took antibacterial hand soaps off the market, would you be very angry, somewhat angry, somewhat happy, or very happy?

...and added a little context ...

Triclosan is a common antibacterial chemical found in many consumer products including most anti-bacterial hand soaps. Studies have detected triclosan in the urine of 75 percent of 2,517 Americans tested and it has been shown to disrupt the thyroid and other horomone systems in animals. No assessment has ever been done on risk exposures to children. Numerous studies have shown that washing hands with this chemical is no more effective at reducing the transmission of infectious disease than just plain old soap and water. If the government took triclosan off the market, would you be very angry, somewhat angry, somewhat happy, or very happy?

Do you think the results would be a little different?

If you want to share your own answer to that question and do something about triclosan, check in with our friends at Beyond Pesticides or Healthy Child Healthy World who are helping get public comments for this effort. Visit Beyond Pesticies here or here or Healthy Child Healthy World here.

And if you want to learn about Healthy Schools Campaign’s green cleaning recommendations -- including our recommendations on hand soaps -- check out Green Clean Schools.