Harmful Handwashing: 7 Dangers of Antibacterial Soaps


Products promising antibacterial protection, sold under brand names including Dial and Lever, contain chemicals whose safety has been questioned for years, with research suggesting that they could interfere with hormones in the body and increase the resistance of bacteria to common antibiotic medications. Antibacterial cleansing products containing the ingredient triclosan claim to offer more germ-fighting protection than regular soaps against some of the most virulent illnesses present in modern society, such as staphylococcus, influenza and strep.

However, antibacterial soaps present some risks in addition to their stated advantages. About 75 percent of liquid antibacterial soaps and 30 percent of bars use a chemical called triclosan as an active ingredient. The drug, which was originally used strictly in hospital settings, was adopted by manufacturers of soaps and other home products during the 1990s, eventually ballooning into an industry that’s worth an estimated $1 billion. Apart from soap, we’ve begun putting the chemical in wipes, hand gels, cutting boards, mattress pads and all sorts of home items as we try our best to eradicate any trace of bacteria from our environment.

7 Dangers of antibacterial soaps and cleansers

Healthy Bacteria Is Killed, Too

Antibacterial soaps and cleansers are designed to kill bacteria that isn’t good for your body before it reaches unsafe levels. But these antibacterial products also kill the good bacteria – bacteria that can help prevent other bacteria from spreading and that helps you build a natural resistance to bad bacteria. Killing 99.9% of germs, something that many antibacterial product manufacturers use as their main selling feature, is deceiving when some of those germs help strengthen your immune system. So it’s hard to say these cleansers are good for you when they get rid of the good stuff too.

Increased Allergies

One of the main reasons parents use antibacterial products is to protect their children. Advertising campaigns have been effective in making parents worry about the germs and bacteria their kids come in contact with, leading parents to equip themselves with several types of antibacterial products. But you may be doing more harm than good – triclosan has been linked to causing increased allergies in children. How? The reduced exposure to bacteria can affect the development of a child’s immune system, making them more susceptible to certain allergies. Regularly using antibacterials soaps and cleansers may in fact do the opposite of protecting your children.

Triclosan Used In Pesticides

The FDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are collaborating on regulatory issues related to triclosan. It’s found in many brands of toothpaste, mouthwash, hand and body wash, as well as baby products. And the danger shouldn’t be ignored, especially since the EPA regulates triclosan in the use of pesticides. That’s right – you could be brushing your teeth and covering your body with a chemical that the EPA is reviewing its use of in pesticides. The chemical is absorbed through the skin and mouth much more easily than originally thought, and it makes you wonder why we would chance the possible health risks and environmental damage associated with the chemical.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria On the Rise

Recent research about the effect antibacterial soaps and cleansers have shows some alarming connections to new superbugs that we’re unable to protect ourselves against. With antibacterial products stripping away all germs, even the good germs, we don’t naturally build resistance to new bacteria. This results in the possibility of new bugs threatening our health because our body is unable to fight them off. Many experts believe antibacterial products open the door for new types of bacteria to emerge that are resistant to certain medications, specifically antibiotics. These new superbugs are a danger to public health.

Hormone Imbalances

With the antibacterial product market being as vast as it is, more research has been done recently that studies the effect these products may have on hormones. A lot of tests have been done on animals and the results are alarming – triclosan, an ingredient in many antibacterial products, has proven to be an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system produces and releases hormones and other products into your bloodstream. The disruption that triclosan has on animals affects estrogen, testosterone and thyroid levels. Experts believe women and children are most at risk for potential hormone imbalances from antibacterial products.

 Harmful For Environment

There are many questions and safety concerns about the impact triclosan – an ingredient found in a significant portion of antibacterial soaps available – has on your body. But the dangers of antibacterial products don’t just relate to the potential implications on people. Research has shown that triclosan also has a negative impact on the environment. With the amount of people regularly using antibacterial hand and body wash, the water you rinse these products off with becomes contaminated in a way. Not all sewage treatments are able to rid the water of triclosan, so small amounts get into streams and lakes, causing a disruption in algae growth.

 Don’t Prevent Illness

It’s a common misconception that antibacterial soaps and cleansers prevent you from getting sick, when many colds and strains of the flu are viral in nature and can’t be treated with antibiotics – or avoided by using antibacterial soaps. In fact, you may be preventing your immune system from developing resistance to bacterial infections by not allowing your body to be exposed to them and naturally protect against infections. Advertisements falsely imply that all germs need to be killed to prevent spreading illness, when a significant amount of colds and strains of the flu are viral in nature and cannot be killed.

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Prof. Hesin
I am herbalist and write on variety of topics from nutrition to natural health, herbal medicine, nutritional supplementation, mind/body medicine and i enjoys the challenge of providing my family with healthy food options that fit with their busy lifestyle.