[19 October 2005]
Even the word sounds bad, triclosan. It sounds like something one would be poisoned with in an Agatha Christie novel. But it turns out the popular “antibacterial” agent is only poisoning our water supply and leading to a new generation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could make our children plenty sick in decades to come. No one is less surprised than me that “antibacterial” products achieve the opposite effect of that for which they are marketed—the paranoia-inducing ad campaigns for these utterly unnecessary products and the OCD wannabes who have bought into them almost seem beneath comment. Germs are evverywhere, and they always have been and no amount of squeegying oneself well eliminate them from one’s life. Not only that but bacteria is a necessary component for the proper functioning of our bodies and our ecosystems. People have somehow managed to survive for thousands of years without antibacterial handwashes, and they will continue to survive if the FDA does the right thing and bans these products. If they don’t, our immune systems may lose the ability to fight germs and bacteria off altogether—wouldn’t P&G just love that.
The “antibacterial” fad is a perfect illustration of how the hygiene industry invents a marketing term and uses it to sell the same uselss crap they are already selling under a new banner, with the term serving as the hook on which they can hang a bunch of misleading and anxiety-inducing claims. What consumerism thrives on, when its not marketing status, is this very terroristic marketing of paranoia and fear, often cloaked in pseudo-scientific jargon, as that is the discourse that carries the strongest ethos in our culture. This abuse systematically undermines our ability to trust in any reported health development, as the language is polluted with marketing abuses, and the agenda in these things being reported is typically obscure. The result is that you are paranoid if you believe them, paranoid if you don’t. I probably should start lining my apartment windows with tinfoil.
Update: The FDA reports that antbacterial washes are no more effective than soap and could contribute to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Please, America, stop buying this worthless crap.