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The FDA Is Banning Useless (and Harmful) Antibacterial Soaps

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The FDA is putting its foot down when it comes to harsh soap ingredients. In a ruling on September 2, the agency announced that companies can no longer sell hand soaps and body washes that are marketed as “antibacterial,” containing any of 19 different common ingredients that quash bacterial growth, Ars Technica reports. These include triclosan and triclocarbon, previously common antibacterial ingredients that companies have recently started to phase out anyway (but can still be found in some products).

Manufacturers were unable to prove that these ingredients were any more effective than regular soap and water. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term,” as Janet Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, explained in the agency’s announcement of the ruling. Studies have found that in addition to failing to prevent illness better than soap can, these ingredients increase antibiotic resistance—which currently poses a major threat to global health.

As scientists begin to understand the role of the body’s microbiome, too, it’s becoming clearer that not all bacteria are bad. Adding healthy bacteria into the gut can actually cure serious intestinal ailments, as the burgeoning field of fecal transplants has shown. The skin’s microbiome is also vital to health, and scientists are even studying whether the dominance of certain bacterial strains in the skin microbiome underlies problems like acne and wounds that won’t heal. Antibacterial soaps, meanwhile, decimate bacterial colonies indiscriminately, wiping out good bacteria with the bad.

Some antibacterial ingredients, like benzethonium chloride (as used in this Dial antibacterial soap, for instance), are still under review by the FDA and will still be allowed for the time being. The agency will rule on these next year, allowing the soap industry to submit more data on their effectiveness and safety. The 19 banned ingredients only apply to consumer washes and will still be allowed in toothpastes, hand sanitizers, and the healthcare settings where they were originally designed to be used. But really, unless you’re a surgeon, just stick to the regular soap. It’s for your health.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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Interactive Chart Tells You How Long It Takes to Get Frostbite
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For many people, winter means dry skin and high heating bills. But if you find yourself outdoors in the right conditions, it can also mean frostbite. Frostbite occurs when the skin and the tissue beneath it freezes, causing pain, loss of sensation, or worse. It's easier to contract than you may think, even if you don't live in the Siberian tundra. To see if frostbite poses a threat where you live, check out this chart spotted by Digg.

The chart, developed by Pooja Gandhi and Adam Crahen using National Weather Service data, looks at three factors: wind speed, air temperature, and time spent outdoors. You can hover your cursor over data-points on the table to see how long you'd need to be exposed to certain wind chills for your skin tissue to freeze. If the wind chill is -22°F, for example (10°F air temperature with 5 mph winds), it would take 31 minutes of being outside before frostbite sets in. You can also look at the time scale above the chart to calculate it a different way. If you bring your cursor to the 40-minute mark, a window will tell that frostbite becomes a risk after exposure to -17°F wind chill for that amount of time. You can play with the interactive table at Tableau Public.

Chart of cold weather conditions.
Adam Crahen, Pooja Gandhi

If you can't avoid being outside in extreme wind and cold, there are a few steps you can take to keep your skin protected. Wear lots of layers, including multiple socks, and wrap your face with a scarf or face mask before venturing into the cold. Also, remember to stay hydrated. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, drinking at least one glass of water before going outside decreases your risk of contracting frostbite.

[h/t Digg]

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REM-Fit
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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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REM-Fit

Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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