People Versus Germs: How Hand Soap Became Political

Nov 28, 2012, 08:00 ET from Thirteen Publishing

Best-Selling Author Paul Alexander Examines Deadly Consequences Of Washington's Fight Over Hand Soap

NEW YORK, Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Germs have wiped out whole civilizations and remain a serious public health threat even today.  Now, one of the most common household items used to fight against germs is front and center in a debate that is based on politics, not science.  Best-selling author Paul Alexander uncovers the motives behind the push to ban antibacterial soap in his new history of germs entitled Pandemic: The Story of People vs. Germs, available online today from Thirteen Publishing.  Revealed in the book:

  • Federal agencies cowering to pressures from Capitol Hill and environmental groups have created an atmosphere where elected leaders, the media and so-called public interest groups can get safe products banned based on bogus science.
  • Antibacterial hand soaps work and the dangers they pose to the environment and human health are greatly exaggerated.
  • If critics of antibacterial hand soap understood the serious threats posed by germs, they would be more worried about the germs than the soaps designed to help people avoid sickness or even death.

In Pandemic, Alexander examines the history of the deadly relationship between germs and people and how today that relationship has evolved to include the politicizing of antibacterial hand soaps, which many environmentalists and politicians are demanding the government ban. Though history shows the significant health threat that germs pose, it's the so-called "risks" associated with a chemical in antibacterial hand soaps -- known as triclosan -- that are stirring up more fear than the bacteria itself.

Triclosan is the synthetic compound that is added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination.  In Pandemic, Alexander writes that during the 50 years that the chemical has been used as an antimicrobial additive, neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Environmental Protection Agency has found any convincing evidence that the compound is a threat to humans. While hospital-acquired infections remain the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S., Alexander questions why some lobbying groups and politicians want to ban a leading antimicrobial agent proven to be able to kill germs.

"I wrote this book because I wanted to understand the deadly history of germs in societies through the ages and how the spread of germs can lead to horrific pandemics," said Paul Alexander. "We have become complacent because we believe we have little to fear from germs. But what I learned is that the threat posed by germs is as real today as it has ever been."

A former reporter for Time, Alexander has published nonfiction in a number of periodicals, including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Village Voice, Salon and Rolling Stone. He is the author of political-themed works, such as The Candidate, a chronicle of John Kerry's presidential campaign, and Machiavelli's Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove, as well as the best-selling Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean.

Thirteen Publishing Company is an independent digital publisher.

On Sale: * Thirteen Publishing Company * E-book Price: $1.99

SOURCE Thirteen Publishing