Back in April, environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) urged everyone to get rid of anti antibacterial soap and products. The group called on consumers to voluntarily make greener choices, but now, the NRDC is going a step further by pushing for government regulation. Yesterday, NRDC sued the Food and Drug Administration over antibacterial chemicals.

What’s wrong with antibacterials? Antibacterial products don’t actually keep people any healthier — and in fact, are made with chemicals called triclosan and triclocarban, chemicals that pose health and environmental risks. NRDC lays out the risks succinctly in its press release about the lawsuit:

Laboratory studies have shown that these chemicals are endocrine-disruptors capable of interfering with hormones critical for normal development and reproduction. Such hormonal interference has the potential to cause long-term health problems including poor sperm quality and infertility, and damage to the developing brain leading to poor learning and memory. Several studies suggest that triclosan and triclocarban also may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Basically, antibacterial chemicals could make you stupid, sterile and sick. I have known about the health risks of antibacterial chemicals for a while, but through NRDC’s lawsuit, I learned another interesting antibacterial factoid — “FDA first proposed a rule that would have removed these chemicals from soaps in 1978.” Now, 32 years later, that rule still remains a proposal. NRDC’s lawsuit seeks to enforce this rule by asking the courts to impose a deadline on the FDA.

While that lawsuit winds its way through the courts, you can stay clean while avoiding antibacterial chemicals by following NRDC Senior Scientist Gina Solomon’s advice: Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, and avoid any product containing triclosan or triclocarban.

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