PEOPLE VERSUS GERMS:
HOW HANDSOAP BECAME POLITICAL
Germs have wiped out whole civilizations and been Public Enemy Number 1 since they were discovered 150 years ago. 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. Bestselling 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 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 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.
Thirteen Publishing Company is an independent digital publisher.
Paul Alexander is a former reporter for Time Magazine, Alexander has published journalism in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, New York, The Nation, The Village Voice, Salon, Worth, The New York Observer, George, Cosmopolitan, More, Interview, ARTnews, Mirabella, Premiere, Out, The Advocate, Travel & Leisure, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Biography, Men’s Journal, Best Life, The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. In Europe, his journalism has appeared in Paris Match, Gente, and The Guardian. He contributes to The Daily Beast.
He is the editor of the essay collection Ariel Ascending: Writings About Sylvia Plath and the author of Rough Magic, a biography of Plath; Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean, the bestseller that has been published in 10 countries; Death and Disaster: The Rise of the Warhol Empire and the Race For Andy’s Millions; Man of the People: The Life of John McCain; The Candidate, a chronicle of John Kerry’s presidential campaign; and Machiavelli’s Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove. He is also the author of the bestselling Kindle Singles Murdered, Accused, and Homicidal.
Alexander directed Brothers in Arms, a documentary film about John Kerry and Vietnam (First Run Features).
A graduate of The University of Alabama and The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, Alexander is a member of PEN American Center and the Authors Guild. In the fall of 2002, he was a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
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“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.
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.”
– Paul Alexander