Antibacterial soaps were first developed for use in hospitals and clinics where sterile environments are often necessary. In recent years, these soaps have made their way onto the shelves of nearly every store that sells body care products. While the claims of killing up to 99.99% of bacteria on your body may seem attractive, in reality they may cause more harm than good.
Known harmful effects:
- Antibiotics kill bacteria, but not viruses which are the cause of colds and the flu.
- Using antibacterial soap will kill both good and bad bacteria
- Bacteria evolve quickly and can develop resistance to antibiotics in the soap. This leads to strains of bacteria that are multidrug resistant such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA.
- Exposure to bacteria helps to strengthen our immune systems. Using antibacterial soaps on a regular basis may make you more prone to bacterial infections. It is very important for young children to be exposed to bacteria so that they can develop a strong immune system.
- Researchers are finding a link between allergies and the use of antibacterial soaps. This is again due to a weakened immune system caused by a reduced exposure to bacteria.
One of the most common antibacterial agents found in commercial hand soap is triclosan. In addition to the harmful effects stated above, triclosan produces some harmful effects of its own:
- When triclosan is mixed with chlorinated water (plain tap water) they combine and produce chloroform gas. Chloroform can cause a person to loose consciousness and thus could cause drowning when taking a bath. In addition, chloroform is toxic and is listed as a carcinogen.
- Triclosan can cause accumulate in fat cells and cause hormonal problems and liver damage.
- Triclosan is also linked to eczema, asthma, and allergic reactions.
So what can you do to keep yourself and your family safe from germs? It has been shown that regular soap is just as effective in removing bacteria and viruses from the skin as antibacterial soaps. While regular soap does not kill bacteria, it does make it easier for the bacteria to be washed away. Soap is an amphipathic molecule meaning that one end of the molecule is hydrophobic (water-hating) and the other end is hydrophilic (water-loving). Since bacterial cells are encased in a lipid membrane, the hydrophobic end of the soap molecule will bind to the lipids and the hydrophilic end of the soap will bind to the water. This allows the bacteria to be easily removed from your body by washing with water.