Antibacterial soaps are the new craze. You see them everywhere. They can be found in friends’ and family member’s homes, in the library soap dispenser, in schools, and public washrooms.
What’s responsible for this recent fad? According to many commercials, you need antibacterial soap to kill all the bad bacteria that are out there waiting to cause disease. Ads promote antibacterial cleansers that kill 99.9% of bacteria.
This sounds great, except that not all bacteria are bad. And repeated use of antibacterial agents can cause those bacteria that are harmful to become resistant.
This poses a problem when you think about how good bacteria and bad bacteria normally coexist in your body. Good bacteria actually compete with bad bacteria. This competition prevents bad bacteria from aggressively multiplying and causing illness. Your system is set up to maintain a kind of internal balance for you. If you kill off all the good bacteria, then the bad bacteria can multiply out of control.
Antibacterial soaps contain something called “triclosan.” Triclosan is an antibacterial agent. It is now used in an astonishing variety of products. It’s found in hand soaps, cleaning supplies and dish detergents. It’s also found in some toothpastes, kitchen utensils, garbage bags, toys and even bedding! Health Canada has also registered 1,200 cosmetics with the ingredient.
That’s a lot of bacteria-killing power.
But a study from the University of Michigan says that soaps containing triclosan are no better at preventing infections than plain soaps.
Researchers reviewed 27 studies conducted between 1980 and 2006. And not only did they find that antibacterial soaps are no better at preventing infections, but they also concluded that these soaps could pose a health risk. They said that active ingredients in these soaps may reduce the effectiveness of common antibiotics, such as amoxicillin.
The first line of defense against infection should be simply washing your hands with normal soap and water.
When handling food, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Be careful with raw eggs and undercooked meat, especially in ground form. Bacteria multiply in temperatures ranging from 40F to 140F — so try to decrease the amount of time your raw food spends out of the refrigerator, before it is cooked.
If you are defrosting a chicken, do so in the fridge. It takes a little longer, but will protect against salmonella. When cleaning your house, standard soaps and detergents can still decrease the number of potentially troublesome bacteria, without killing off beneficial ones.
Try using tea tree oil soap in the bathroom. It is naturally antiseptic and antifungal. Lavender and peppermint are also antibacterial.