Research – antibacterial soaps may do more harm than good

Child washing hands with regular soap

Child washing hands with regular soap

Changing nappies, wiping noses, cleaning up after child-induced hurricanes – parenting can be a messy business sometimes. And for years we’ve been reaching for antibacterial soap to banish the germs. But now a US state has banned the vast majority of them.

Research suggests antibacterial soap – widely used everywhere from homes to schools and hospitals – may actually be harmful to human health and creating bacteria-resistant superbugs.

This month, Minnesota became the first US state to ban antibacterial soaps containing triclosan, a chemical that has been found to impair muscle function in humans. It’s in about three quarters of all liquid soaps on the market, reports Gizmodo.

The US Food and Drug Agency has been unable to find evidence that antibacterial soap is more beneficial than regular soap. However, it has found that triclosan is no more effective than regular soap and water. And antibacterial soap targets bacteria, but not the viruses that cause common colds and flu – so actually won’t prevent many illnesses.

In multiple animal studies, triclosan has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates most of an animal’s growth and reproduction. A small Norwegian study showed children with evidence of triclosan exposure were more likely to develop seasonal allergies. There are also concerns that antibacterial soap use will quickly generate antibacterial-resistant superbugs, with some bacteria already resistant to triclosan.

But advertising around health messages can be powerful, and who hasn’t felt comforted by promises of soaps that kill “ninety-nine-point-nine per cent” of common bacteria. So what is a germ-blasting parent to do?

Well, experts advise ditching the antibacterial pump-packs – good old soap and water are perfectly adequate weapons in the battle against household spills.

(via Gizmodo)

Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose

Michelle is a journalist and mum to two girls who are obsessed with dinosaurs, fairies, pirates and princesses in equal measure. She lives in Melbourne's east with her husband, daughters and a giant, untameable labradoodle. Michelle loves all things vegetarian, wine (it's a fruit) and online shopping.

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