Why is there no ban on dangerous chemicals in our utensils? | Belicons

Why is there no ban on dangerous chemicals in our utensils?

Posted on: 
Tuesday 6 September 2016

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Why is there no ban on dangerous chemicals in our utensils?

Last Friday I read on ABC news that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits 19 chemicals that are common on antibacterial soaps. I think that just a few people know about these chemicals. Nevertheless, it is very important message, for we touch some of these dangerous chemicals very often. Since not many people know about this, let's first take a look at what this is about.

What is this about?

The FDA says that to date there isn’t enough evidence that antibacterial soap that consumers can buy in stores have advantages over normal soap. More than that, since 2013 scientists did studies to find out whether some ingredients, like triclosan and triclocarban, may even have disadvantages for our health.

Animals tests shows that they affect their hormones negatively. It isn’t clear yet what the exact effect is in humans, but they think that these chemicals can decrease the effect of antibiotics.

In 2013 the FDA warned the manufacturers that they would forbid these chemicals if they wouldn't prove before the end of 2016 that these chemicals are effective and save. But neither the FDA nor the manufacturers were able to prove that it is safe to use products that contain these chemicals long-term.

But there is more. The chemical substance triclosan is added to more products than just antibacterial soap. It can also be found in toys, clothing, silverware, furniture, etc. In this way, these products become antibacterial. And this increases the problem, for since it is added to so many products, we are exposed to this chemical much more often than agencies as the FDA thought before

Howeverm even now they don’t ban these chemicals from all things that we touch or eat, it only concerns consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water.

The current rule of the FDA is that next to triclosan 18 other chemicals are banned from soaps that are used with water. So, manufacturers get another year to change their products, otherwise, they cannot sell their products to consumers anymore. Furthermore, the FDA advises people to just wash their hands with water and normal soap. That is the best way to prevent the spreading of most diseases and bacteria.

Peiling: Stoffen waarbij er twijfel aan de veiligheid is horen niet in gebruiksvoorwerpen

Peiling: Stoffen waarbij er twijfel aan de veiligheid is horen niet in gebruiksvoorwerpen

Poll: Chemicals of which the safety is unsure don't belong in utensils

Poll: Chemicals of which the safety is unsure don't belong in utensils

Read the blog that goes with this poll https://www.belicons.nl/en/blog/antibacterial-soap

Body 2: 

I don’t know what your feeling is about this. But I think that this is very much alarming. Not only because these chemicals are all around us, but especially because it has been known for years that these chemicals may be a danger to our health, even though not many people know about this.


Many leads, no ban


They have talked about this for many years now

So for years now there have been many leads that triclosan isn’t good for our health. But despite that, up until now the United States are the only country in which this chemical is banned now in some products.

In 2013 the FDA gave manufactures 3 years to prove that this chemical is safe. They could also have banned it back then already until the manufacturers  could prove that it is safe. But they gave them 3 years.

And other governments still haven’t taken any measurements.

I expect to be protected by the government

And that is what worries me. We trust that agencies as the FDA and the same kinds of agencies in other countries watch the safety of our foods and products. And that when there are doubts about some chemical that they just prohibit it so that our health is not endangered.

Moreover, we expect the media to tell us about such dangers so that we can choose to buy products and food that don’t contain these chemicals. But obviously none of this is happening.

There are probably many reasons for this. But I think that the main reason is: money. How is it possible that money keeps information about these chemicals away from the main public?

Money and the government

I think that it is safe to say that money is more important to the government than our health. I think this applies to all countries. I have taken some case studies from The Netherlands. Just make a list of what happens in your country. If health was more important than money to the Dutch government than:

  • the government would take preventive measurements more often when there is a possible risk to our health. They wouldn't care so much for the response of companies that sell these products;
  • the trains with poison that ride trough Dutch villages would take safer routes;
  • the own risk that Dutch people have to pay before their insurance company pays their health costs. At least for people who don’t earn so much money;
  • fill out other things...

So the government regards money as more important than health. Because of that, manufacturers get a lot of time to prove that they aren’t doing anything wrong. In the mean time we are exposed to possible dangerous chemicals without knowing it. That is not a good situation.

Money and the media

It could have been a bigger item in the media

But it is not only the government that is important here. The media could share this information with us much more often until the government takes action. ABC news, The Guardian and De Volkskrant and maybe some newspapers in other counties have followed this item. But it hasn’t become a major issue in the media. Why?

The main reason for this must be money too. Let’s take a look at competition among the media and investigative journalism.


If all journalists had enough money and didn’t have to care about competition, they could share all the news they regard as important. But it doesn’t work in that way. So media, like TV broadcasts, radio broadcasts, newspapers, news websites all want to share the news with us in the best way. If they don’t, then we go to the competition.

So most attention goes out to:

  • Usual items

    Media need to choose subjects that they are used to talk about. For these are the subjects we expect to hear about. Like the American elections and soccer.

  • A remarkable scandal

    If a news channel can announce that they have a scoop, then many people will choose that channel to watch the news.

  • Items that stirs our imagination in another way

    For this reason a scandal in the meat industry will attract much more consumers than a chemical substance in several products and foods. Saying that there may be something wrong with the meat people have on their plates is more shocking than chemicals we cannot see.

Investigative journalism

Precisely because there is so much competition and people spend less money on the traditional news media, they have less money to spend on investigative journalism. And when there is less money available for research, then there is less time to do research. And when there is less time to do research, they don’t have enough information to share it in news reports.

Triclosan just doesn't sound so interesting

A chemical substance like triclosan doesn’t stir people’s imagination so easily. And since it also needs some research to report about it, it makes sense that it didn't find its way to the main public.

But the fact that this makes sense, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t.

Is health more important than money?

From the above it may sound like I think that health is more important than money. And of course health is the most important. But still, in the context of money, government and media, this statement is too easy. The government and the media of course do have to watch their budgets, otherwise their debts will rise and that isn’t good either.

So I would prefer that the governments and media would regard health and economics as important. The FDA now has banned these chemicals. Will other countries follow their example? And how long it will take before it will become a major issue in the media? Will they find the right balance between the importance of public health and their concerns for money?

What is your opinion? Did you want to know about this years ago already? Or don't you regard this as important? Share your opinion below, or on the forum!

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