A Cleaning Industry Poll Concludes that the Public (gasp) Favors Antibacterial Products!

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Last month, the American Cleaning Institute and Personal Care Products Council conducted a “poll” of American consumers’ views on and uses of antibacterial soap, in nervous anticipation of the possible EPA ban on triclosan, the antibacterial chemical found in a mind-boggling array of every day products, from toothbrushes to mattresses.

Advertising for antibacterials is so ubiquitous in the media, many individuals assume that using antibacterials is essential for keeping clean and eliminating germs.  Big businesses are putting these chemicals in our soap, lotions and other everyday products, and telling us that it will keep us healthy.  And we take their word for it.  After all, many of us think, how can an “antibacterial” soap be harmful?  The name itself sounds beneficial and far from threatening.

But many people don’t know that triclosan does more than just kill germs.  Recent research has shown that triclosan disrupts hormones, lowers sperm production, harms our immune systems, and transforms into dioxins, chemicals that have been linked to cancer.  And it doesn’t protect us from germs any more effectively than regular soap.

EPA is proposing to ban the use of triclosan in everyday products where it is unnecessary, ineffective and may be hazardous.  Studies show that triclosan soaps are not better at preventing disease than plain soap and that triclosan is found in so many everyday items—from toys to tissues to toothpaste—that it’s in most of our bodies today.  Numerous doctors, scientists and medical professionals have expressed deep concern about triclosan’s use in everyday products.

This particular poll was created by the very companies that make antibacterial products, so the way in which the questions are phrased seems a bit biased to us.  But we’ll let you judge for yourself.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the questions:

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

Since most people don’t know the risks of triclosan, it’s easy to guess that few people would have any reason to express happiness about government action. On the other hand, ask Americans about the government taking almost anything off the market – red dye, candy cigarettes, AK47s – and there will always be a significant percentage expressing anger.

Adding to their spin, the Cleaning Institute’s poll emphasizes the importance of antibacterial use in medical settings, like doctor’s offices and hospitals.  The poll questions spread fear by falsely implying that the EPA’s proposal to ban triclosan in certain consumer products would completely eliminate triclosan from medical settings too.

What the Institute failed to mention is that the EPA proposal would only ban triclosan’s non-medical uses.  So medical settings could still use these products.

After lamenting the absurdity of the artfully-phrased questions in the poll, CEH’s clandestine, guerilla video team was lucky enough to catch the American Cleaning Institute administering one of its surveys.  Take a look at the gripping footage:

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Ali manages the website and coordinates the online communications of CEH. She works with the communications and development staff to create messaging strategies and public education content for CEH’s supporters and online audience. A Bay Area native, Ali attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received a B.A. in Sociology and Cultural Studies. This allowed her to live abroad in Argentina, where she studied Latin American history and learned valuable Spanish language skills. Ali is thrilled to be part of an organization that advocates for healthy communities so effectively.