Antibacterial soap: Poses environmental health risks, doesn’t clean any better

To protect yourself from harmful germs wash your hands, for at least 20 seconds, with plain old soap and water.

That simple advice might be the take-away message from last week’s Food and Water Watch-sponsored congressional briefing on triclosan, an antibacterial agent found in hundreds of antibacterial soaps and other personal products from toothpaste to cosmetics to deodorant.

Food and Water Watch wants the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration to ban triclosan, citing its ubiquity in the human body and discharge into the environment.   In 2008, CDC data identified triclosan in the urine of 75 percent of the population, of concern because animal studies have found triclosan can act as an endocrine disruptor.   Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with hormone functions, and can result in adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological or immune effects. When triclosan breaks down, it can turn into dioxins, which are known carcinogens. The health risks from triclosan need to be better characterized for humans, although there likely exists enough evidence for federal agencies to consider banning it from consumer products.

triclosan_022011_1087According to some environmental and health experts, the use of antibacterial soaps containing triclosan is overkill in most non-medical uses, and there may be negative consequences as the compound makes its way through our bodies and into the environment.

“Consumers have an appetite for antibacterial soap regardless of whether or not there is an indication for it,” said Dr. Larry Weiss, the chief technology officer at natural soap company CleanWell, and a physician and expert on natural chemistry and epidemiology.  “We need to think more about when it makes sense to use an antimicrobial and when it doesn’t.” Read More >

Bills banning arsenic take shape in MD General Assembly

Dr. Keeve Nachman, Director of the Farming for the Future Program at CLF, spoke at a press conference yesterday in the Maryland House of Delegates. The press conference was organized by Montgomery County Delegate Tom Hucker and Prince George’s County Senator Paul Pinsky.  Senator Pinsky and Delegate Hucker are proposing bills in both the House and the Senate which would ban the use of arsenical drugs (including roxarsone), common feed additives in the broiler poultry industry.

The arsenic-containing drug roxarsone is transformed into the toxic inorganic form of arsenic both in the gut of chickens as well as in their waste, where it is then used as a fertilizer for crops.  “This creates opportunities for people to be exposed to arsenic in their water and their food, increasing their risks of developing cancer and other health problems,” Dr. Nachman said.  Dr. Nachman described the many health threats posed by exposure to inorganic arsenic, which include cancer and cardiovascular disease, among many other health effects.

“This bill will affect every Marylander, their health, and their environment,” Delegate Hucker said.

In addition to Delegate Hucker and Senator Pinsky, Maryland’s Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Food and Water Watch’s Assistant Director Patty Lovera, and Drew Koslow of the Choptank Riverkeeper spoke at the conference in support of the bill and the negative environmental and public health impacts resulting from the use of roxarsone in poultry feed.

Details of the Senate and House versions of the bill can be found HERE for the Senate (Senate Bill SB0417) and HERE for the House (House Bill 0754). Click HERE to read Dr. Nachman’s full press statement.

Is There a CAFO in Your Neighborhood?

screen-shot-2010-12-07-at-15636-pmNational consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch (FWW) just released the latest version of its Factory Farm Map, which charts the concentration of factory-farmed animals across the country and their subsequent affect on human health, communities and the environment.

As most factory farmers and the state and local agencies that regulate them are often unable and/or unwilling to provide information about the locations of factory farms, researchers at FWW analyzed data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Using USDA Census data from 1997, 2002, and 1997 for beef and dairy cattle, hogs, broiler meat chickens and egg-laying operations, FWW researchers calculated the number of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in each county in the United States. In addition to county-by-county analysis, viewers can filter the map by species of animals farmed, zoom in to the state or county level, and view maps by year.

The user-friendly Factory Farm Map shows that, though the total number of farms raising livestock in the United States has declined in recent years, these farms have increased in size. In other words, independent animal farmers are disappearing while large factory farms are getting bigger, and bigger factory farms mean more pollution and economic hardship in many rural communities across the nation.

New Documentary on H20 Highlights Potential for Power Struggles Over Water

One of the perks of working for the Center for a Livable Future is the opportunity to listen to great speakers and catch the latest documentaries about sustainability and the environment.

Last week, CLF hosted a viewing of “Blue Gold: World Water Wars,” a new documentary about the state of one of our most vital resources.  Food and Water Watch presented the film to students and staff at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and hosted a discussion following the screening.

The documentary, based on the book of the same name by Maude Barlow, who spoke at last year’s sustainability lecture series at the school, stresses the importance of protecting our dwindling water resources and ensuring that water is a public right—not a commodity that is owned by corporations (which is what has happened in many parts of the world, as the film details).

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