In our ever-increasing bid to rid ourselves and our homes of “evil” bacteria, more and more supermarkets shelves are being loaded with antibacterial products. Most come with the tempting promise of destroying 99.9% of bacteria so we must have kicked all those treacherous germs into touch, right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t so and the case against antibacterial products is far more compelling and sinister than you may have believed. Here are 5 very good reasons to bin your gels and hand-washes and return to good old fashioned soap:
Antibacterials are no more effective than soap and water at removing bacteria and germs from your body
The main antibacterial component is triclosan or, less commonly, triclocarbon. To have an effect, these chemicals need to be left on a surface for 2 minutes or more and the chances are, you’re taking a fraction of that time to wash your hands. Additionally, several studies in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and in the Oxford Journal of Infectious Disease, among others, found that there was “no significant difference” and antimicrobial soap was “no more effective than plain soap” at preventing infectious illness.
Antibacterial soap contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
It’s not only the overuse of antibiotics that’s causing the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Our use of antibacterial products such as soap is also causing us a problem. When bacteria is exposed to triclosan, it can undergo genetic mutations which protects it from the triclosan. This renders the bacterial agents useless as a super-strain of the bacteria develops. This in turn makes them more difficult to destroy with antibiotics.
Antibacterials may be disrupting our hormones
There have been several studies carried out on a variety of animals which have shown that triclosan interferes with the body’s regulation of thyroid hormones. If this has the same impact on humans, then there are concerns that it could lead to problems such as infertility, obesity, artificially-advanced early puberty and even cancer.
Antibacterials increase the risk of allergies
There’s evidence that children with prolonged exposure to triclosan have a higher chance of developing allergies such as peanut allergies and hay fever. This along with the theory that allergies are on the rise due to our overly-sanitised environment, which is harming the development of our immune system, means we need to step away from the antibacterial hand-gel.
Antibacterials are bad for the environment
Have you ever wondered what happens to that antibacterial soap after it’s washed down the sink? Perhaps not but the chemicals aren’t completely removed by sewage treatment. This means that they can transferred onto our agricultural land, contaminating surface water which is a concern because both triclosan and triclocarban degrade into carcinogens! Of course, if this gets into our drinking water and foods, then the consequences could be dire. A survey in 2009 found that there were concerning levels of triclosan in bottlenose dolphins off the coast of South Caroline and Florida so this is no longer just a theoretical concern, but a very real environmental issue.
So, it looks like it’s time to ditch the antibacterial products and get back to good ol’ soap and water, and in the absence of that, a quick rinse with alcohol will rid you of any dastardly germs. (And for further ideas on keeping bacteria at bay, check out our friends at Charm Clean who can give some more tips.)