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  • Is Antibacterial Soap Doing More Harm than Good?

    Triclosan, found in antibacterial soaps, has been banned in a state in the U.S.
  • Baby in a bath

    Photo Source: huffingtonpost.com

    Research shows that by the way antibacterial soap changes the makeup of skin and body bacteria, it may actually be fostering more health concerns – especially for kids.

    “Somehow, through marketing or misinformation, we’ve been led to believe that if we get rid of bacteria, we’ll improve our lives and our health,” said Dr. Martin Blaser, director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University. “In fact, the opposite is probably true.”

    For children, this could be hindering the needed development and growth of their immune systems. “Early life is a critical time to build immunity and metabolism and cognition,” said Blaser. “There’s more evidence that bacteria are part of that development.”

    He expounds that we live in a bacterial world and the vast majority of them are neutral or beneficial to us; very few are harmful.

    One study took 1,000 households and split them into two groups: one group was to use antibacterial cleansing products; the other, plain soap.

    “In terms of infection rates and sickness, we found absolutely no difference between antibacterial soap and regular soap,” said Dr. Elaine Larson, co-author of the study and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Antimicrobial Resistance at Columbia University.

    In fact, Dr. Allison Aiello, an epidemiologist at the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of Carolina, said that triclosan – the chemical in antibacterial soaps – may actually be strengthening some bacteria by killing the others. This is not yet fully-proven but it has already led the state of Minessota in the U.S. to ban triclosan from cleaning and personal care products.

    “We’re seeing a greater number of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms over the periods these products have been around,” said Aiello.

    The important aspect of cleaning is not the soap, but the rubbing motion, Larson said. The rubbing motion dislodges the microbes from your hands or any other surface. “The idea that soap kills germs is a misconception. Soap just helps you wash the germs off,” she said. “The rub is more important.”

    This shouldn’t mean that cleaning is unimportant, said the experts. It’s especially so for medical practitioners and people who have weakened immune systems.

    April 22, 2015. "You Asked: Should I Use Antibacterial Soap?". time.com


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