Growing Body of Evidence Suggests Antimicrobial Soaps Increase the Risk of Infections, Alter Gut Bacteria and Breed Superbugs
Although antibacterial soaps are useful in some respects, there is a growing body of scientific literature that suggests they do more harm than good. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling on antibacterial soap manufacturers to provide additional information about their products in order to determine an official ruling.
Scientists found that common antibacterial compounds present in soap, including triclosan and triclocarban, may increase the risk of infections, change stomach bacteria and breed superbugs by causing bacteria to become more resistant to prescription antibiotics, according to an article by ARS Technica.
These antibacterial soaps have been under the watchful eyes of the FDA for many years, and have even been prohibited in some regions of the country. Not all bacteria are created equal, however. Humans are largely made of bacteria. Although antibacterial soaps do an excellent job of killing bad bacteria, they do an equally excellent job of killing good bacteria.
Washing their hands of the whole thing
To add insult to injury, there is evidence that antibacterial soaps don’t actually clean hands any better than traditional soap and warm water. There are instances when these antimicrobials can be helpful, civil engineer Patrick McNamara of Marquette University in Milwaukee told ARS. Triclosan, for example, can be useful when doctors scrub their hands for minutes before surgery.
On the whole, however, instances when antimicrobials are helpful are few and far between. “There’s evidence that there is no improvement with using soaps that have these chemicals relative to washing your hands under warm water for 30 seconds with soaps without these chemicals,” McNamara said.
At this moment in time, the FDA has deemed triclosan and other antimicrobials safe. Regardless, they are calling into question whether these chemicals enhance personal care products for the better. Consequently, the FDA has called on antibacterial soap manufacturers to provide data that demonstrates their products are more effective at keeping people germ free than normal soaps.
Throwing antibacterial soap in the wash
In a 2014 study headed by microbiologist Blaise Boles of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, researchers tested 90 adults and discovered that 37 of them had boogers that harbored triclosan. Oddly enough, the researchers found that antimicrobial snot doubles the risk of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus accumulating in the nose, a common cause of respiratory infections.
When rats were exposed to triclosan, the researchers found that triclosan made it harder instead of easier for the critters to keep staph invasions at bay. Triclosan appears to make the bacteria stickier, enabling them to latch onto the surface of cells. This stickiness may explain why staph builds up in the nostrils.
Two other recent studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, found that both triclosan and triclocarban hinder microbial communities from disintegrating waste, making them less potent, and enabling the bacteria to become more resistant to antibacterial drugs.
It is anticipated that the FDA will make a decision in September about whether these antimicrobials ought to be prohibited from all soap products. In the meantime, you may want to replace your antibacterial hand wash with organic handmade soap. Many small business offer all natural soap. Although these soap bars tend to be more expensive than antimicrobial soaps, they are actually good for both your skin and the environment.
“We want to slow the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria so that our current antibiotics can continue to help medical patients,” Dan Carey, team member at Marquette University, told sources. “If using hand soap without antimicrobials can help, I think it would be worth it to try and change consumer behaviour.”