Dr. Joseph Mercola
with Rachael Droege
It used to be that antibacterial soaps were used mainly in clinical
health care environments. Now, antibacterial soaps are used in households
across the country where they amount to a $16 billion-a-year industry.
Some 72 percent of all liquid soap sold in the United States now
contains antibacterial ingredients.
The active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan,
an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits bacterial
growth. But not only does triclosan kill bacteria, it also has been
shown to kill
human cells. Triclosan was introduced into consumer products
in 1995, and its use has spread rapidly.
Antibacterial ingredients have become so prevalent in the United
States that there are now antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents,
shampoos, toothpastes, body washes, dish soaps and many household
Consumers use these products because they have been marketed as
an effective and necessary way to lower the risk of infection. However,
many scientists fear that the widespread use could lead to a strain
of resistant bacteria, or "superbugs," and cause the ingredients
to lose effectiveness for the times when they really are needed.
And now, the first major test in people's homes has found that
using antibacterial products apparently offers little protection
against the most common germs. The study represents the first time
scientists have attempted to evaluate the products under real-life,
day-to-day conditions in homes.
In the study, published in the March
2, 2004 journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people who used
antibacterial soaps and cleansers developed cough, runny nose, sore
throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often
as people who used products that did not contain antibacterial ingredients.
The researchers pointed out that most of the symptoms experienced
by the study participants are typically caused by viruses, which
the antibacterial soaps don't protect against. And for the
symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria,
the people who used regular soaps had no greater risk than those
who used antibacterial products.
Further, many traditional medical circles now accept the hygiene
hypothesis, which centers on the idea that children need to be exposed
to some bacteria in early childhood in order to strengthen their
immune systems. Children who are not exposed to common bacteria,
which are wiped out by antibacterial soap, may be more
prone to allergies and asthma.
Even the American
Medical Association (AMA) does not recommend these products.
So why do they persist? Simple; the manufacturers have relied on
using fear to convince people that they need to use them to stay
healthy. So, avoid being duped by these companies. All you need to use is a plain soap that you can pick up in your local health food store, as washing with plain soap and water will get rid of most all bacteria.
Five Common Hygiene
Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Expert Warns of Dangers of Anti-Bacterial Soaps and Antibiotics
Simple Hand Washing Cuts
Hand Washing Decreases
Agents May Cause Drug Resistance
Concern Over Widespread
Use of Hygiene Antibiotic