Have you ever sat down and taken a real serious look at the ingredients list on the back of that suspiciously pale microwavable meatloaf you bought? Or delved into the chemical wonderland of elements that comprise your favorite bathroom cleaner? If you’re anything like me, the number of hours that you’ve spent hunched over a dirty workbench in a poorly lit cellar obsessively poring over the list of ingredients in every single product you buy while arguing heatedly with the voices in your own head and only vaguely aware of the stench of your own unwashed body are literally impossible to count! Am I right? No? Well….. good. That was just a test. Congratulations, you’re not a dangerous sociopath.
Most of us, especially those of us who have had a meaningful relationship with a member of the opposite sex at some point in our lives, don’t spend a lot of time fretting over what exactly goes into the products we use. And really, why should we? Don’t we have the FDA to do that for us? If there was something really harmful in something that we use or consume regularly, you’d think that the one entity in the world whose job it is to make sure that kind of crap doesn’t fly would nail it before the first unit even rolled off the line, right?
Well you’d think so, but you have to take into consideration that the FDA is a government entity. However you may feel about the current administration or the previous administration or even the future administration, you really can’t deny the fact that the government as a whole has a track record that can really best be compared to the career of Robert De Niro: for every Taxi or The Godfather (The Interstate System, Bill of Rights) he puts out, you seem to get an equal if not greater number of crap titles like Hide and Seek or Rocky and Bullwinkle (e.g. MK Ultra, Iran Contra). If you’re following the tone of this article, you can probably guess which category I think the FDA falls under.
No one has ever described the FDA as witty, funny, clever, or hip.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about here. Most anything that you have that claims to be, “antibacterial,” will have an ingredient in it called Triclosan. This includes all of your antibacterial soaps and cleaners; if you have anything in your house that is made by a company whose name your neighbors might actually have heard of that claims to kill germs, odds are good that it has Triclosan in it. This chemical, which is actually classified as a pesticide by the EPA, has been around for about forty years now, helping Americans win the war against germs and other harmful microorganisms!
Except, it hasn’t. That’s right, recently Triclosan has been the subject of an investigation by health and safety officials due to recent tests that suggest that not only may it have seriously harmful side effects (more on that in a moment) but it might not even do what it’s supposed to do! Let that sink in for a minute; for more that forty years now there has been a chemical that has been so universally accepted that it is in nearly 75% of all antibacterial soaps, and now we find out that it doesn’t even do the one thing that it’s billed as being able to do? That’s like if someone told you that Lebron James was going to play basketball for you and then sent you a forty-five year old computer programmer with male-pattern baldness and a pocket-protector instead!
And as for the side effects, well if you’re a parent then this should be all kinds of exciting for you! Do you know how it’s totally awesome having a teenage kid? No? That’s because it’s not awesome (from my understanding anyway) and yet despite the not-awesomeness of having smelly, nasty, teenagers in your house Triclosan apparently thinks that your life would be one hundred and ten percent better if your kids started puberty at a younger age! Yep, that’s right! One of the side effects that scientists have discovered during animal testing has been the tendency of subjects exposed regularly to Triclosan to develop hormonal imbalances that in, children, can result in the early onset of puberty! Huzzah!
Once again, I want you to think about that for just a minute. That means that every time your kid scrubs up for dinner, he’s one more hand-wash away from looking like this:
The Face of Triclosan
And the worst part of all of this (you thought it couldn’t get worse after that, didn’t you?) is that there were serious suspicions even when it was approved that the crap didn’t work as advertised! Back in 1978 when the government released its first set of guidelines for commonly used household chemicals (a document that was widely considered to be the Citizen Kane of government-issued guidelines) they even went so far as to say that Triclosan was, “not generally recognized as safe and effective,” due to a total lack of scientific evidence suggesting that it was in any way useful! That was more than thirty freaking years ago! Why was it not pulled from every product it was ever placed in you ask? Well the government, displaying its usual level of blinding competency, never actually bothered to pass the guidelines that they had spent millions of dollars putting together and so the whole thing ended up moldering on a shelf somewhere in the national archives.
Even now, despite having assured the public back in 2012 that investigating Triclosan was one of the FDAs, “Top Priorities,” the administration has done little to actually advance the idea of getting it the heck out of all of our products. This is in spite of significant evidence presented by the Endocrine Society, a highly respected group of doctors specializing in hormonal changes whose name just happens to make them sound like the lamest group of super-villains ever, that Triclosan can cause serious fluctuations in the body’s estrogen and testosterone levels. Which, in case you need a reminder, means that your kid is probably going to end up looking like this a lot younger than you’d like:
So about those ingredient lists…