I have long believed that anti-bacterial soaps are not healthy and that people should avoid using them. I was greatly encouraged to hear that the FDA is finally addressing the issue of anti-bacterial soap dangers. According to the AP,
Under a proposed rule released Monday, the agency will require manufacturers to prove that anti-bacterial soaps are safe and more effective than plain soap and water. Products that are not shown to be safe and effective by late 2016 would have to be reformulated, relabeled or removed from the market.
If you're not convinced that anti-bacterial soaps should be avoided, here are five reasons why you should remove all anti-bacterial products from your home.
1. Anti-bacterial soaps are NOT more effective than soap and water.
Despite what the marketing for commercial soaps claims, plain soap and water cleans just as well as anti-bacterial soap. Remember this article I wrote on how soap works? Both goat milk soap and anti-bacterial soap work the same way. In fact, in 2005, an FDA panel concluded that there was "no added benefit" from using anti-bacterial products over soap and water.
In case you're still not convinced (I don't always believe everything the FDA has to say either), are you aware that the anti-bacterial chemicals need to be left on your skin for about two minutes for them to actually kill any bacteria? Few people in a home environment wash their hands for at least two minutes. I know we certainly don't.
2. Anti-bacterial soaps contain harmful chemicals.
There are two main chemicals used in anti-bacterial soaps - triclosan and triclocarban. Triclosan has been linked to disrupting hormones, damaging reproductive systems, and affecting how your heart and muscles contract.
One study discovered triclosan in the urine of approximately 75% of a representative sample of the United States general population.
Another study found triclosan in breastmilk and stated, "The concentrations [of triclosan] were higher in both plasma and milk from the mothers who used personal care products containing triclosan than in the mothers who did not."
This is not a chemical I believe we should be using on our skin.
3. Anti-bacterial soaps promote antibiotic resistance.
Anti-bacterial soaps were first created and used in hospitals, where bacteria are common and where patients are weakened and have compromised immune systems. The problem occurred when these anti-bacterial products started being marketed to everyday people outside of hospital settings.
The anti-bacterial chemicals are now added to a great number of consumer products such as soaps, body wash, cleaning products, clothing, mouth wash, cosmetics, hair conditioners, deodorants, first-aid products, and even toothpaste.
Making these chemicals like triclosan so prevalent exposes many more bacteria and microbes to the chemicals. This can cause them to become antibiotic resistant or to become stronger. In 2000, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially declared they were against adding antimicrobials to consumer products, stating they should be avoided “until the data emerge to show antimicrobials in consumer products are effective at preventing infection.” This has not been proven.
4. Anti-bacterial soaps can lead to weaker immune systems.
One of the best ways to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy is to work on strengthening our immune systems. This requires being exposed to germs so our immune systems can grow. (Note: I am not talking about people with compromised immune systems).
I can understand a parent not wanting their children to get sick. The thought is that if you kill all the bacteria in your home, you're protecting your children. But if you keep your home sanitized, your children are less exposed to germs and their immune systems don't get as much of a "work out" so they can get stronger.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a sanitized world. Your child will leave your house at some point, and be exposed to germs and allergens their immune systems haven't had to deal with. As much as we sometimes want to put our children in a bubble to keep them safe, we can't protect them from all the bacteria in the world.
5. Anti-bacterial soaps are not good for the environment.
According to Beyond Pesticides, around 95% of triclosan goes down residential drains. This is a big problem because waste water treatment plants do not remove all of the chemical, so triclosan makes its way into our lakes and rivers. This contaminated water may even be used to irrigate our crops.
Beyond Pesticides also stated that, "According to a U.S. Geological Survey study of 95 different organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, Triclosan was one of the most frequently detected compounds and at some of the highest concentrations. Even though little is known about the effects of Triclosan on wildlife, one study found that Triclosan disrupts thyroid hormone-associated gene expression in the North American bullfrog."
While we haven't fully studied the results of the presence of triclosan in our water systems (that I know of), the addition of such a chemical can't be good for the environment, for animals, or for humans.
What should you use instead of anti-bacterial soap?
Those are the reasons I am against anti-bacterial products and won't use them in our home.
Instead, we use lots of goat milk soap to clean our hands, lots of goat milk laundry soap to clean our clothes, and lots of vinegar to clean our house. If you're trying to kill bacteria around your home, lemon juice or vinegar are great choices. They can create an acidic environment in which microbes have difficulty surviving. And because they don't leave a residue, bacteria can't form a resistance to them.
Despite the dangers that anti-bacterial soaps cause, they are still widely used. A recent study performed by Dr. Eli Perencevich, an infectious diseases researcher, showed that 76 percent of liquid soaps and 29 percent of bar soaps contained antibacterial agents, such as triclosan and triclocarban. I've also seen statistics that according to the FDA, more than 93 percent of bar soaps contain triclocarban or triclosan.
If you are still concerned about bacteria, our tea tree goat milk soap is a more natural way to fight bacteria. Tea tree essential oil is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. But remember, the best way is to thoroughly and regularly wash your hands with soap. And when you use Goat Milk Stuff soap, you don't need to worry about any added anti-bacterial chemicals like triclosan.