Should You Use Antibacterial Soap?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Antibacterial cleansers are designed for use in hospitals and clinics, not for use in the homes of healthy people. Dan Chang, PhD, a professor of environmental engineering at U.C. Davis, reports that antibacterial products may do more harm than good. Regular washing with soap and water is sufficient to wash away dirt and germs. Repeatedly washing with alcohol sanitizers causes skin cells to break down, allowing skin to become increasingly susceptible to harmful bacteria and other organisms. Chemicals in antibacterial soap such as triclosan and triclocarban have the potential to affect sex hormones and interfere with the nervous system.

Spraying counter tops and other surfaces with antibacterial cleanser causes some chemicals to linger, continuing to kill some bacteria, but not all of them. This allows the remaining bacteria to build up a tolerance and become resistant. Good bacteria lives on our skin, and antibacterial cleansers kill the beneficial bacteria as well. We need these bacteria to fight off disease causing germs and common infections.

The traditional advice is still the best. Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 15-20 seconds. Make sure to scrub between your fingers and under fingernails. Always use a clean, dry towel to dry hands completely. Natural cleansers are best as many soaps may also contain harsh, drying chemicals. Last but not least...keep your hands out of mucous membranes!

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