Will you still use antibacterial soaps knowing that it can do more harm than good?
In this day and age when getting sick is a total nuisance, nobody wants towering hospital bills and expensive medication weighing them down, so people will do everything to prevent these circumstances. And we mean everything. Enter the antibacterials. These are probably a blessing to those who fear getting sick by bacterial infection, especially those with mycophobia, or the fear of bacteria or germs. From laundry detergents to pillow covers and bed sheets, children’s lunchboxes to hand creams, everything has an antibacterial equivalent.
But the question is, just because it says antibacterial, is it really?
The lowdown on antibacterials
If you’ve ever purchased an antibacterial soap, or any item that claims to be antibacterial, you’d notice that the most active ingredient they have is called triclosan.
Triclosan was first used in the hospital setting and was adopted for commercial use in the 1990s. Just how popular is triclosan in antibacterial soaps? Approximately 75 percent of liquid antibacterial soaps and 30 percent of bars has it. So what seems to be the problem if triclosan is used in antibacterial soaps now when it was used before as a disinfectant in the hospitals?
The problem is that putting triclosan as an active ingredient in over-the-counter products such as hand washes and chopping boards, to name a few, has not been fully evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration until December of 2013. And the results of their studies show astonishing results that should prompt all of us to stop using antibacterial soaps.
The FDA has now given an ultimatum to these companies who sell antibacterials as over-the-counter products to produce evidence or research that will show the effectiveness of their products. Their deadline is on December 2016, three years after FDA conducted their own research. There are reasons why the FDA will ask for this.
Five reasons why you should say goodbye to antibacterial soap now
Soap and water combination is still the best.
The FDA released in their 42 years of research, in addition to many other studies, that there is no clear evidence of triclosan giving a potential health benefit to its use over plain soap and water.
Yes, it’s true that the manufacturers of antibacterials show that there are fewer bacteria after having washed your hands with their antibacterial soaps. But what the FDA wants is more than that. What the FDA is asking for is that there is lesser infection rate when one continues to use antibacterial soaps. After all, that’s what consumers want. We all use antibacterials in the hopes that we won’t get sick or we won’t catch bacteria that were transmitted to us unknowingly. There is no evidence that shows that washing your hands with triclosan or using antibacterial products can lessen the transmission of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.
The creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
One of the possible health risks to using antibacterials is bacterial resistance. What happens is that every time you use an antibacterial soap, you do kill some bacteria. However, not all bacteria are killed. Those that are able to live will develop resistance to what you have used, and if this cycle is continued, all of the bacteria that will stay on you will soon be resistant to what you’ve been using.
This is already happening today, and some bacteria species have already grown resistant to some antibiotics. You don’t want to be harboring antibacterial resistant organisms on your own body, do you?
Triclosan interferes with thyroid function.
Because chemically, triclosan resembles the thyroid hormone, studies in rats, frogs, and other animals showed that it binds to thyroid receptors. No studies have been made in humans yet, but if this is the case, triclosan binding to thyroid receptors can bring about problems such as infertility, artificially-advanced early puberty, obesity and cancer, to name a few.
Our health is not triclosan friendly.
Studies showed that children who were exposed to triclosan long enough have a higher risk of developing allergic reactions to peanuts and hay fever. This could be because of reduced bacterial exposure, which is necessary for the immune system to function and develop. Physicians are saying that at the young age, it is very critical for the children to build their immunity. And there is evidence showing that bacterial exposure is a part of building their immunity. If you remove the bacteria, there is a chance that you can alter and upset the development of immunity in unpredictable ways.
Triclosan can also penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, as evidenced by finding triclosan in the urine. Effects of triclosan on human muscle cells showed that it interfered in its contraction.
Antibacterial soaps harm the environment.
What happens when we wash our hands or our laundry with antibacterial soaps that contain triclosan? This means that triclosan gets flushed in the sewage system along with the water. Now, research shows that triclosan can survive the chemical treatments and finds itself surviving until it goes to the bodies of water. The effect of triclosan is that it can disrupt the ability of algae to undergo photosynthesis. Imagine how much algae will be lost if triclosan continues to find its way in our bodies of water.
Not only that, triclosan was also found present in the bloodstream of bottlenose dolphins. What does this mean? It means that triclosan gets eaten by lower forms of life in the ocean and since it can be stored in fat tissues, it has made its way up the food chain. The effects of which are not yet known.
What’s the verdict?
The good old hand washing technique using plain soap and water should suffice. If you are not a huge fan of hand washing, which you definitely should be, a non-antibiotic sanitizer that contains alcohol can also do you good, especially if you don’t have time to do the whole thirty seconds of the hand washing routine.
You can never blame anyone for the dependence on antibacterial soaps. We all scrub and sterilize and disinfect because globalization has made the world small. You can go from one country to the other not knowing what you carried along with you. It could be the next deadly virus or bacteria not yet known in your home country.
For now, there is no official announcement that you should not use antibacterial soaps, in fact, you can still buy them everywhere. But with the growing evidence against it and no evidence proving that it can reduce bacterial transmission of disease, why take the risk?