More Harm Than Good? Why Antibacterial Soap Is Not In Our Home


More Harm Than Good? Why Antibacterial Soap Is Not In Our Home

In our home, we wash hands a lot.  With twin five year old girls, there are lots of opportunities for messy hands.

As a Mom, it’s important to me to teach our girls proper hand washing, and prevent the spread of germs.   Antibacterial soaps are the most common type of soap available, and many of us believe that anything labeled “antibacterial” must be better at killing germs.  Well, maybe not.

Triclosan, the active ingredient in nearly all antibacterial soaps, has been under fire lately for some significant side effects.  That’s not all.  Most antibacterial soaps contain a chemical concoction of unpronounceable ingredients, many linked to serious health issues.

The top seven reasons why you won’t find antibacterial soap in my home:

1.  No more effective than plain soap at killing bacteria

In 2007 the University of Michigan and other universities compiled data from 30 studies looking at the use of antibacterial soaps. The results showed soaps with triclosan were no more effective at preventing illness or reducing bacteria on the hands than plain soap.  Something else to consider – triclosan targets bacteria, not viruses.  So it won’t protect you from the common cold or the flu (both are caused by viruses).  Good old fashioned hand washing is still your best defense this winter!

2.  Linked to increased allergies in children

According to research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the increased use of antibacterials in general has been linked to increased allergies in children.  Children with the highest urine levels of triclosan had nearly twice the risk of environmental and food allergies as children with the lowest triclosan levels.  “These findings may support the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which maintains living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our exposure to micro-organisms that are beneficial for development of the immune system,” says study author Allison Aiello in the study’s press release.

3.  Antibiotic resistance and superbugs

Experts are warning that the routine use of antibacterial chemicals like triclosan is contributing to a surge in drug-resistant germs, or superbugs, that are immune to antibiotics. The American Medical Association has warned that “it may be prudent to avoid the use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products.” Because triclosan kills most, but not all, of the bacteria it encounters the germs that survive emerge stronger and harder to kill in the future.

4.  Decreased sperm production, early puberty, and infertility

Triclosan, a classified pesticide, has been shown to alter hormones in animal studies, which could lead to problems like early onset puberty, reduced fertility and cancer in humans.  A 2009 EPA study showed triclosan decreases levels of estrogen and sperm production in male rats, and early puberty and altered levels of estrogen and thyroid hormones in females.

5.  Possible effect on heart and other muscles

A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences exposed mice to similar levels of triclosan that people are exposed to on a daily basis. The first mouse died of heart failure within a minute of injection.  Lowering the dose, they tested other mice and found that the chemical reduced the heart’s ability to circulate blood and also reduced leg-muscle strength.

6.  Chemical concoction

Turn over any antibacterial liquid soap and you will find a long list of potentially harmful ingredients.  Most of the ingredients are chemicals identified on the Dirty Dozen, a list of cosmetic ingredients to avoid as potentially toxic.

7.  Environmental concerns

Along with its negative health effects, triclosan also impacts the environment, ending up in lakes, rivers and other water sources, where it is toxic to aquatic life and is fueling the development of resistant bacteria in streams and rivers.

Triclosan is so prevalent that a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the chemical present in the urine of 75 percent of Americans over the age of 5.  As the evidence mounts against triclosan, manufacturers are starting to react. Johnson & Johnson vowed to remove triclosan from all adult products, but not until 2015.  Procter & Gamble is eliminating it by 2014.  Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanent has banned triclosan from all of its hospitals and facilities. While triclosan is already banned in the European Union, the FDA plans to deliver a review on the effectiveness and safety of triclosan later this year.

Decrease exposure to triclosan and the other chemicals in antibacterial soaps by choosing a natural, plant based soap in your home.  Small changes can have a big impact!

Here are some favorites to try.  No triclosan, no nasty chemicals… just good, old fashioned, soap.

Deep Steep Organic Foaming Hand Soap, 8 oz $4.49  (.56 per oz)

The Honest Company Hand Soap, 12 oz $11.95 (.99 per oz)

Kiss My Face Peace Soap, 8 oz (Pack of 2) $10.04 (.62 per oz)

California Baby Moisturizing Hand Wash, 19 oz $14.00 (.73 per oz)

Seventh Generation Hand Wash, 12 oz (Pack of 3) $5.47 (.15 per oz)

What was most surprising in this article?  Leave a comment below … I want to hear from you!  Have a question?  Ask away… let’s keep the conversation going!

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  1. This makes me feel so much better about using regular soap. I’d love to hear what the preschool says, I should bring this up at my daughters daycare. Thanks!

    • So far, the conversations with preschool are going great. The director was interested in learning more, and looking into some of the natural options listed in the article. I will keep everyone updated! This one small change could really reduce the number of harmful chemicals our kids are exposed to.

      I posted on the Live-Clear FB page the full ingredient list of the #1 selling antibacterial… talk about a chemical concoction! Here they are, ingredients of concern noted with *


      Active Ingredients: Triclosan*
      Inactive Ingredients: Water, Sodium C14 16 Olefin Sulfonate, Lauramide DEA*, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine*, Fragrance*, Citric Acid, DMDM Hydantoin*, Glycerin, Tetrasodium EDTA*, Polyquaternium 7*, Silk Peptide, Hydrolyzed Silk Protein, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, FD&C Red 40 (CI 16035)*, FD&C Yellow 5 Aluminum Lake*, D&C Red 33 (CI 17200)*

      Why are *these a concern?

      Triclosan: a pesticide

      Lauramide DEA: hormone disrupting chemical that can form cancer causing nitrates and nitrosamines

      Cocamidopropyl Betaine: associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis, may be contaminated with nitrosamines (carcinogen)

      Fragrance: contains phthalates linked to endocrine disruption

      DMDM Hydantoin: Formaldehyde releasing preservatives: formaldehyde is a known carcinogen

      Tetrasodium EDTA: hormone disrupting chemical that can form cancer causing nitrates and nitrosamines

      Polyquaternium 7: risk of contamination of ACRYLAMIDE, a suspected carcinogen

      FD&C Red 40 (CI 16035): Coal tars, carcinogen

      FD&C Yellow 5 Aluminum Lake: Coal tars, carcinogen

      D&C Red 33 (CI 17200): Coal tars, carcinogen

      YUCK! Here’s to finding safer, more natural hand soaps!! 🙂

  2. Update on my conversation with the girls’ school about hand soap: after I brought in a copy of this article and spoke with the director about changing to a safer hand soap… today they have new soap!! I am really happy. Changing from antibacterial Softsoap to this new natural castile soap cuts out 10 potentially harmful chemicals EVERY time our kids wash their hands!

    Here’s what the school uses now: Dr. Organics Pure Castile Soap (diluted in water so the school can make their own refills):

  3. Remarkable! Its truly amazing piece of writing,
    I have got much clear idea concerning from this post.

    • I am so happy to hear this information was helpful! New soap is one small change that can have a big impact. Thanks for reading!

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