Most people nowadays buy antibacterial soaps instead of normal ones, because they believe it keeps them safe and protects them for the oh-so dreaded bacterial infections. Apparently, there’s little evidence that antibacterial soaps provide any additional protection than the regular kind. The problem: most people don’t use them properly. For that matter, it may be wiser to ban antibacterial soaps and some other derived products altogether, to keep microbes from adapting.
The main active ingredients in antibacterial soaps are triclosan and triclocarban. These chemicals aren’t limited to soaps, though. The germ-free frenzy has caused the introduction of a myriad of related products that contain these anti-microbial agents from detergents, to clothing, to toothpastes and even pacifiers. In all, some 2,000 products on the US market alone contain triclosan or triclocarban. As such, some three-quarters of Americans have detectable traces of triclosan in their urine, according to Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University.
Useless soap chemicals
According to Halden, to ward off microbes people need to wash their hands with antibacterial products for 20 to 30 seconds, but studies show people use the soaps for just six seconds on average. You can imagine what a waste this is, but even more important is the potential bacterial disaster that the wide use of triclosan active products might cause.
Studies suggest microbes can adapt to these chemicals, and this adaptation may increase their resistance to the antibiotics that are used to treat infections, Halden said. Additionally, triclosan and triclocarban affect hormones in the body, according to studies conducted on animals. Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration said that antibacterial chemicals will need to be removed from personal care products unless the companies can prove that these chemicals are safe and effective.
“The FDA’s move is a prudent and important step toward preserving the efficacy of clinically important antibiotics, preventing unnecessary exposure of the general population to endocrine disrupting and potentially harmful chemicals, and throttling back the increasing release and accumulation of antimicrobials in the environment,” Halden said in a statement.
In fact, the danger posed by growing resistance to antibiotics should be ranked along with terrorism, the government’s chief medical officer for England has said. For instance, one of the easiest to treat STDs, gonorrhea, is making a come back for the worse, as more and more cases have been reported where antibiotics stop responding. If this trend continues, common antibiotics could stop responding , threatening the lives of millions across the world.
The breakdown? Triclosan poses enormous risk with no benefit. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other non-industry-funded scientists have shown time and time again that washing with regular soap and water is just as effective than using antibacterial soaps.
The Arizona State researchers’ paper was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.