Why antibacterial handsoap is unhealthy
Oh, there is nothing I hate more than a cold!
Those obnoxious sniffles… That uncomfortable, unrelenting tickle at the back of your throat… A red, chapped nose! So I try my best to avoid catching them in the first place. I avoid sick people like a Hollywood thief dodges laser-beams in a bank vault (no, seriously – if you’re sick, I will avoid you!) and I wash my hands A LOT.
Washing your hands is one of the simplest ways to help prevent getting sick.
And while it may seem that antibacterial soap is the best option, the active ingredient in most antibacterial soaps is toxic. Enter Triclosan.
It was only a few years ago in 2008 that federal regulators approved this pesticide for use in 140 different types of consumer products including liquid handsoap, toothpaste, undergarments, and children’s toys.
As an endocrine disruptor (also referred to as an E.D.C., endocrine disrupting chemical), triclosan can disrupt hormone regulation at even low-level exposure. The World Health Organization and United Nations this year concluded:
Exposure to E.D.C.s during fetal development and puberty plays a role in the increased incidences of reproductive diseases, endocrine-related cancers, behavioral and learning problems, including A.D.H.D., infections, asthma, and perhaps obesity and diabetes in humans.
In addition, clinical studies on animals have shown that tricolsan impairs muscle function and skeletal muscle contractility. Individual human muscle cells (from that heart and skeletal muscles) that have been exposed to triclosan in doses comparable to everyday-life exposure also showed a disruption in muscle function.
It poses a particular threat to fetal and childhood development. Infants experience increased exposure since they are exposed to a number of items that contain triclosan and they also ingest the chemical through their mothers’ milk: in a study conducted by Environmental Working Group, 97% of women’s breast milk contained triclosan.
Furthermore, some reports have suggested that triclosan in handsoap can combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform, a known carcinogen. How lovely.
The real kicker…
There is no concrete evidence that triclosan’s use in liquid hand soap and other products gives consumers the germ-killing benefits they are promised. The American Medical Association, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee, and a number of academic researchers have determined that antimicrobial soap does not work any better than plain soap and water at preventing the spread of infections or reducing bacteria on the skin. In fact, they caution that these soaps could lead to cause bacteria-resistance.
It’s time to ditch “antibacterial” soap!
So not only the active ingredient in most antibacterial soap toxic, but it may very well not even being doing what people want it to do!
What’s the alternative? An all-natural soap (this one has a “1” rating in EWG’s Skin Deep Database), warm water, and washing hands thoroughly. For natural antibacterial protection, check out my DIY antibacterial & moisturizing all-natural foaming handsoap.
Sources and Further Reading
- The World Health Organization, State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012, Summary for Decision-Makers
- Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, Triclosan
- Environmental Working Group, Guide to Triclosan
- American Medical Association, Use of Antimicrobials in Consumer Products (see page 4)
- Smithsonian.com: Surprising Science, Triclosan, A Chemical Used in Antibacterial Soaps, is Found to Impair Muscle Function
Great! Some antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are made with natural ingredients like tea tree oil which is a safer option and possesses more germ-killing properties.
Oops sorry about that! It was this CleanWell soap http://amzn.to/I5RPxX. You can also check out some other options in the Skin Deep database http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/liquid+hand+soap/
The link for the all-natural hand soap that you recommend isn’t working for me. Could you tell me which one it is?
Very good and timely post as I’m trying to reduce the toxins I put in and on my body. Thank you.