The Dangers of Antibacterial Soap
We want to keep our families safe and healthy, so we protect them the best we can. However, research shows that one recent invention and highly prevalent product - designed for just this purpose - may be doing more harm than good. Though many people have bought into the antibacterial soap hype, after testing it appears that regular soap and water are just as effective in preventing illness. In fact, according to the FDA Advisory Panel, there is no actual advantage to using antibacterial soap. There is one thing, however, antibacterial soaps can do that regular soap and water can't. It's the very reason the FDA wanted the Advisory Panel to check it out in the first place - certain chemicals in the antibacterial soaps could accumulate in the environment and promote potentially dangerous resistant germs.
Antibacterial Vs. Traditional Soap
Do antibacterial soaps have the ability to create a new strain of bacteria? A bacteria that is strong - so strong it is resistant to most antibiotics? Though conclusive data has not been established, the threat is a very real possibility. THE TRUTH IS:
- It's cheaper to use traditional soap and water.
- It's just as effective to use traditional soap and water.
- Unlike antibacterial products, traditional soap and water will not cause a new strain of bacteria.
- Product and advertising claims made for antibacterial soaps do not always ring true.
With these facts in mind, it's difficult to understand why companies continue to make antibacterial soaps and why consumers continue to purchase them.
What About Bacteria?
Some may point out that antibacterial and alcohol-based gel soaps, used widely in hospitals, have helped prevent one patient's bacteria from traveling to another. However, the same can still be said for traditional soap and water. As hard as they may try, there is just no evidence that antibacterial soaps should remain available to the public. Still, the soap industry is standing by their product. They point out that the benefits of antibacterial soap do live up to their label's claim of reducing harmful germs on the skin. They argue that their product helps people and they dismiss concerns out of hand. However, informed people say the time for marketing games has come to an end.
The risk of resistant bacteria is no longer theoretical. There is widespread concern that overexposure to triclosan, an antimicrobial agent frequently used in a variety of products including antibacterial soaps, may not only prevent new antibiotics from working to their full potential, but also may boost the growth of "superbugs" - bacteria that can remain alive without a living host for months. MERSA (methicillin-resistant strain, staphylococcus aureus) a staph infection, often called the flesh-eating disease, is one such superbug. Annually, more people die from MERSA than from AIDS. The reason? MERSA is resistant to most antibiotics. Experts caution that the "potential" risk of germ resistance is not worth continued mass marketing of antibacterial soaps - especially when they are no more beneficial to consumers than traditional varieties. It is hoped that by 2011, antibacterial soap products will have additional restrictions set on labeling information and the way advertising may be worded. However, as of now, antibacterial soaps remain as-is on market shelves.