Should Kids Use Antibacterial Soap?
Recently, there’s been a number of news reports questioning the effectiveness of antibacterial soap and antibacterial body wash. Parents have always wondered whether antibacterial soap is better than other types of soap, and I’ve always bought antibacterial soap because I thought it’s better to kill sickness-causing bacteria. However, it now seems like there are good reasons against using antibacterial soap products.
The first big piece of news recently was that antibacterial soaps were not actually better than regular soaps at killing bacteria. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created quite a stir when it proposed requiring antibacterial soap manufacturers to prove the effectiveness of their product. The FDA wants more clinical studies done to show that the antibacterial chemicals in the soap are worthwhile.
The reason for the FDA’s concern is the growing problem of bacterial resistance, as some bacteria develop an immunity to the chemicals designed to kill them. Eventually, triclosan (the antibacterial agent in liquid soap), may become totally ineffective at killing bacteria, because the common bacteria have encountered the chemical for so long and grow immune to it. Bacterial resistance has already led some medical professionals to be more careful in prescribing antibiotics for things like sinus infections, as those bacteria grow more resistant to the drugs. Certain bacteria that cause staph infections are now resistant to certain drugs, and treatment of these infections is very difficult. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and the FDA fears that continued wide-spread use of certain antibacterial ingredients will eventually cause the common, sickness-causing bacteria to become immune to the antibiotics.
At this point, it is unclear whether very common bacteria are impacted by the triclosan in antibacterial soap, or not. That is why the FDA wants soap making companies to prove the effectiveness of their product. Scientists have been questioning antibacterial soap for years, but because of the large, high-powered consumer products industry, little has been done by way of government regulation until now.
The second reason for the uproar over antibacterial soap is that, regardless of whether it works, there is still a question of whether it is totally safe. There is new evidence which suggests there may be health impacts from the long-term use of triclosan. Researchers say there can be disruptions in the reproductive system and hormonal levels from prolonged use of tricolsan. Of note, scientists are concerned about the impact the chemical has on the thyroid gland, which regulates important hormones in the body.
The FDA is not getting into the use of hand sanitizers, as those chemicals are different than what is in antibacterial soap. Triclosan is also found in a number of other products, including some toothpastes, mouthwashes, and even fabric softeners.
Whatever you decide to use at your house, it sounds like a good idea to stay up-to-date with the research surrounding household chemicals like the triclosan in antibacterial soap. If it turns out that the chemicals are making bacteria harder to kill, then we need to see what new products we can develop in order to keep our kids free of dangerous germs.