24 March 2018

Antibacterial soaps do more harm than good

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While the use of antibacterial soap is beneficial in certain situations, for everyday use, they can end up doing more harm than good.

That's the message from a growing number of studies casting doubt on the safety of these microbe-killing soaps, and now the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is demanding more data from the makers of antibacterial soap so it can make a final ruling.

Some researchers believe their use is contributing to the rise of 'superbugs' - in other words, chemicals in antibacterial products are causing the bugs to mutate and become more resistant.

Add to this the evidence that antibacterial soap doesn't actually clean your hands any better than normal soap and warm water - at least not if you're only cleaning your hands for a couple of minutes at a time - and you can see why experts are saying it's causing more harm than good.

A study presented earlier this month to the US Endocrine Society found that mother rats exposed to triclocarban - a chemical most commonly found in antimicrobial bar soaps - was passed onto their offspring. It was also altering the microbiomes of both mothers and babies, which is a worry, because we're learning more and more about how crucial our internal bacteria are for our health.

Also under suspicion is triclosan, another antimicrobial widely used in hand soaps and many other products, from shampoos to cosmetics. A 2014 studyfound exposure to triclosan could make both humans and rats more susceptible to a potentially infectious type of bacteria called Staphylococcus.

More recent research has found triclosan affecting the microbiomes, diversity, and community structure of zebrafish.

2016.04.13 / 16:20
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