Letter Re: Avoid Using Anti-Bacterial Soaps

Mr. Rawles,

I’d like to respond to the Cleanliness article by P. J. W.. The author recommended “lather (with anti-bacterial soap).” Readers should be aware of how unnecessary anti-bacterial soap is and how it’s loaded with negative side effects. Although anti-bacterial soap is best at reducing bacteria during hand washing, the use of non-antibacterial soap and water alone are most effective at removing viruses. See this YouTube clip.

Also see this Mercola article. (You may need to register to read, though registration is free.)

Studies have shown that people who use antibacterial soaps and cleansers can often develop a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who use regular soaps.

Part of the reason for this is because most of these symptoms are actually caused by viruses, which antibacterial soaps can’t kill.

But even for symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria, those who used regular soaps still had no greater risk than those who used antibacterial products.

So, antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary for the purpose of washing away bacteria.

But there’s more.

They can actually cause far more harm than good by promoting the development of resistant bacteria.

Yes, many scientists now fear that the widespread use of antibacterial soaps and various disinfecting products may be contributing to the rise in “superbugs,” bacteria that are resistant to modern medicines.

The antimicrobial triclosan, for example, is known to promote the growth of resistant bacteria.

Even the American Medical Association (AMA) does not recommend antibacterial soaps for this very reason.

Additionally, 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 become more prone to allergies and asthma as they grow.

But aside from that, the active ingredient in many antibacterial products, such as triclosan, can be hazardous in and of itself as well.

and see this article on toxicity.

The antibacterial agent triclosan, commonly used in certain soaps, is starting to appear in consumer products ranging from socks to toothpaste.

But research shows that under normal household conditions triclosan can react with chlorinated water to produce chloroform, a likely carcinogen.

An initial 2005 study showed that, in the laboratory, pure triclosan reacts with free chlorine to produce chloroform. More recently, follow-up studies on 16 products found that household goods containing triclosan produced either chloroform or other chlorinated byproducts.

In some soaps, the triclosan degraded within one minute of exposure to chlorinated water at temperatures used for household cleaning. Regards, – Erik M.