Telling you what I never told you.
May 16, 2023
I once received feedback on a performance review that I was "honest to my own detriment". I've always taken it as a compliment, though I'm not sure it was intended that way.
True to myself and this mission, I made the commitment to you all when I launched SOOTSOAP to be truthful, transparent, and to assist in the education of personal decon. That will not waiver.
As new research is released on the efficacy of SOOTSOAP and other personal decon products now available, it felt like a fact-stating mission was due.
We were FIRST (but not first).
SOOTSOAP was officially made available for purchase in September 2019 after 2 1/2 years of development. We went through 16 formulations, 43 lab tests, and hundreds of in-field tests to get to that point (and exponentially more since). SOOTSOAP was developed because, to my knowledge as a firewife and obsessive-compulsive solution-finder, there was no solution to eliminate that smell from my husband, nor the toxins that caused it. There certainly was no natural solution. I tried everything. I read everything. I asked everyone. To my knowledge, there was no charcoal-based liquid soap designed to solve this very real challenge for firefighters. To my knowledge then and to my knowledge still, we were the FIRST. Others came after us.
There was however (and still are) other charcoal-based products like bars that I'm confident are efficacious to a degree, and certainly more so than regular soap and water. But they weren't effective enough, and weren't in the right format for us and our fire community, which is why SOOTSOAP was born. Charcoal is an incredible adsorbent, and a key functional ingredient I knew our product required in unprecedented saturation. Many labs / manufacturers were dismissed in my search for development because of their dismissal of my vision (until we found our incredible lab partner). But we certainly weren't the first charcoal product ever developed (it has been used for thousands of years), nor the first product ever made for firefighters. We would never claim to be and thank those who came before us.
SOOTSOAP was absolutely, unequivocally, 100% developed for firefighters. One in particular.
My background is as a marketer and strategist. I have 20 years of experience working to develop strategy for the best brands out there - working with brands like UFC, Ford, Harley-Davidson, Reebok, Pepsi-Quaker-Tropicana-Gatorade, The Toronto Leafs and Raptors, the National Film Board ... I am not, nor have I ever been a firefighter. I've never dreamed of being a firefighter (nobody wants me driving a fire truck). My dad wasn't a firefighter. I knew little to nothing about firefighting* until I met the love of my life, and I developed SOOTSOAP for him. For us. For our firefamily. For you. I quit my well-paying job, and have been dedicated to this mission since. Without my husband - an incredible man and career firefighter - and without his continued support of me and of this mission, there would be no SOOTSOAP. And without firefighters, it simply would not exist.
SOOTSOAP is the most effective personal decon product tested.
I've never said this before. Even if I believed it, was told it, and anecdotally could justify the statement, I've never said it because I didn't have the science to back it up yet and that wouldn't have been completely truthful or transparent. I couldn't say it yet. Now I can.
NC State University's Wilson College of Textiles' team led by Bryan Ormond recently completed and released research that tested 4 liquid, charcoal-based personal decon products (SOOTSOAP and 3 products that came after us) and their effectiveness on the removal of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a group of toxins present in soot and smoke, many of which are categorized as carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans). The testing was done on bunker gear in parallel with testing on detergents, meaning all personal decon products were watered down 10ml product to 90ml water and tested to determine elimination of PAHs that were soaked into the fabric.
This study found SOOTSOAP the most effective personal decon product, removing an average of 88% of PAHs. Where we particularly excelled was in the removal of the hardest-to-eliminate compounds, the high molecular weight (less volatile) toxins. Where water alone removed 10-14% of these, SOOTSOAP removed 81% - more than any other personal decon product tested.
You can find the study HERE (SOOTSOAP is CD-8). We isolated SOOTSOAP in this testing and have summarized the results in THIS PAMPHLET, also illustrating the difference in LMW v HMW compounds (in case you like to nerd out like me).
This research is completely unbiased, peer-reviewed, third-party research that has nothing to do with us, and is available publicly for free thanks to the team at the Textile Protection and Comfort Centre (TPACC). We didn't pay for it, commission it, and were not involved in this research in any way. The methodology, limitations and conclusions are stated. This is the only type of research you should trust.
88 is great. But 88 isn't 100.
Where this research is particularly amazing for me is not in the 88%, it's in the 12% - that's the distance we now know we have to make up. That is the improvement we have to make. That is the percentage that could be the difference between living and dying.
We are in this together.
I will never talk down about another brand or product or individual taking a crack at this mission - it's too important and it is going to take all of us to conquer. To quote Al Pacino in the greatest speech of all time - "Either we heal as a team, or we are going to crumble. Inch by inch, play by play, till we’re finished. We are in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me. And, we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light... Either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals".
You have my commitment to continue to fight for those inches - to fight for those percentages - and to do so with honesty, integrity and transparency.
In return, I need your commitment to personal decontamination. If you are responsible for your department's safety, please prioritize decontamination of the body. If your department does not support this mission, you need to take your health into your own hands. Whatever you use, wherever you get it, please use something.
Decon like your life depends on it.
*Random sidenote, one of my first jobs as a quick typing 12 year old was typing up fire reports for an old school, dicta-using Fire Inspector ... but I can't say with any confidence I actually retained any knowledge aside from even faster fingers