Should You Use Antibacterial Soaps?

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • If you look at the hand soap, shower gels, laundry detergent and other cleaning products you have in your home, how many say they are antibacterial?

     

    Chances are that you have quite a few antibacterial products in your home; after all, these products make up a billion dollar a year industry according to CBS News.  These products, however, don’t do any better at washing off germs or keeping you healthy than regular soap and water. In fact, they may be harming you and your family. Some scientists believe that antibacterial products actually lead to antibiotic resistant germs as well as cause hormonal changes.

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    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is questioning the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial products. In December 2013, the FDA issued a rule requiring companies to begin proving their products are more effective than soap and water in preventing illness and spreading infection. Under the rule, companies have until Dec ember 2104 to submit data and studies on their products. The FDA hope to analyze the information to have a final ruling by September 2016. If a manufacturer cannot provide evidence their product is effective, they will need to take it off the market or change the labeling.

     

    In the meantime, antibacterial products are still available on store shelves despite that fact that more than 40 years of research have not found any evidence that antibacterial products are any better than plain soap and water in preventing illness or spreading infections. Part of this is because the majority of illnesses we hope to stop, such as colds, flus or gastrointestinal viruses are viral, which means they aren’t caused by bacteria and are not affected by antibacterial products.

     

    The ingredients in these products that are worrisome are triclosan, found in liquid soaps, and triclocarban, found in bar soaps. According to the FDA, “New data suggest that the risks associated with long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits.” Some scientists are concerned that overexposure to these products can cause hormonal problems. Studies on rats, frogs and other animals have shown that it can interfere with the thyroid hormone. Although this hasn’t been proven in humans, it is a concern. Other studies have shown that overexposure to these chemicals can lead to allergies in children, possibly because without bacteria, immune system development could be impaired.

     

    Washing your hands is important but in your home, office and other non-healthcare settings, plain soap and water is recommended. Liquid soap is generally better than bar soap because germs can live on bar soap and then be transferred from one person to another, especially if one person has a skin infection. For times when water isn’t available, hand sanitizers help, but these are meant to supplement, not replace hand washing as they do not remove any dirt.

     

     

     

     

Published On: August 27, 2014