Antibacterial Soap a Good Thing? Think Again

 

In this time of scary bacterial infections, antibacterial soap would seem a regular sink-side bottle. We are told that germs are bad—and many are—and that we need to scrub them away with antibacterial soaps, scrubs and sprays. Right? Well, not completely. Handwashing for at least 15 seconds with hot soapy water is very effective at removing germs. All that is needed for this is regular old soap.

Antibacterial soap contains a chemical called triclosan (2,4,4’-trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether). This chemical has been said to contribute to the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is because it’s in so many products and pollutes waterways, increasing its exposure to bacteria, which then become resistant.

Dr. Smith blogged in December about the link between use of triclosan and the development of hay fever and allergies in children and teens. Now comes another study published in Environmental Health Perspectives that adds to the last—children and adolescents under age 18 with the highest levels of triclosan in their urine were more likely to be diagnosed with allergies and asthma.

The head researchers stated, “Our results suggest that exposure to triclosan, particularly at times during the life course when the immune system is developing, may modify immunologic response.” They are not quite sure how that works, but suggest that applying triclosan soaps to the skin may reduce some types of microbiota on the skin, or even in the bowels. Or, the soaps may directly affect the endocrine system, which is in close communication with the immune system.

While they work out the details, I say steer clear of antibacterial soaps. Just be sure to wash your hands well. It’s enough!

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