The Dirt on Anti-Bacterial Soap

How many anti-bacterial soaps or detergents do you have in your home? I used to have several. I assumed they were safe and better than ordinary soaps, especially as they are far easier to get than soaps without antimicrobial properties.

Now I know better, and can only agree with Oscar Wilde's words: "When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me."


Health Effects of Anti-Bacterial Soap

According to several studies, there is little difference in the number of bacteria killed by antibacterial soap over regular soap. Also, it seems that domestic chemical disinfectants may contribute to decreased health.

“Improvements in hand hygiene resulted in reductions in gastrointestinal illness of 31% and reductions in respiratory illness of 21% ....with use of nonantibacterial soap. Use of antibacterial soap showed little added benefit compared with use of nonantibacterial soap.”

JAMA reported a Pakistani study, where people who washed their hands with plain soap and water were able to reduce the incidence of childhood diarrhea by 53%. Those who used antibiotic soap containing 1.2 % triclocarban had a slightly higher incidence of illness.

In fact, according to The American Medical Association: “Until data emerge to show antimicrobials in consumer products are effective at preventing infection and have no detrimental effect on public health, they should be avoided."

Similarly, The United States Center for Disease Control says: “Currently, no evidence suggests that use of antibacterial soap (containing 0.2% triclosan) provides a benefit over plain soap in reducing bacterial counts and rate of infectious symptoms in generally healthy persons in the household setting.”

The use of the antibiotic Triclosan is particularly hazardous.

Toxic Triclosan

This is a synthetic, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent used in a wide variety of household- and personal care products, including: antibiotic wipes, gels, creams, soaps, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, lotions, plastics, mattresses, fabrics, and more.

Yet it is now known that Triclosan comes with frightening health consequences.

As Dr Angela McGhee Ph.D. comments: Triclosan is a chlorophenol and pesticide, a class of chemicals which is suspected of causing cancer in humans. Taken internally, even in small amounts, phenol can lead to cold sweats, circulatory collapse, convulsions, coma and death. Additionally, chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides can be stored in body fat, sometimes accumulating to toxic levels. Long term exposure to repeated use of many pesticide products can damage the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs, suppress the immune system, and cause hormonal disruption, paralysis, sterility and brain haemorrhages.”


Moreover, Triclosan comes with environmental hazards. It causes all kinds of problems when washed down the drain. Even when this drain water is treated at whitewater treatment plants, triclosan is not removed. It is highly toxic to algae and is thought to have detrimental endocrine effects on fish. It also encourages cross-resistant bacteria.

I could go on. But you get the picture I’m sure!

Dirt is OK!

Another important point to remember is that there is nothing wrong with a bit of dirt! In fact, as Dean said last year our obsession with ‘cleanliness’ actually weakens our immune system.

How come?

This was explained by researchers from the School of Medicine at University of California. They showed how the normal bacteria living on the skin surface help to prevent excessive inflammation after injury: “These germs are actually good for us,” says lead researcher Richard L. Gallo, MD, PhD.

He comments that the results provide “a molecular basis to understand the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ and has uncovered elements of the wound repair response that were previously unknown. This may help us devise new therapeutic approaches for inflammatory skin diseases.”

The ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’

The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ first introduced in the late 1980s, suggests that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents and microorganisms increases an individuals’ susceptibility to disease by changing how the immune system reacts to such ‘bacterial invaders’.

The hypothesis was first developed to explain why allergies like hay fever and eczema were less common in children from large families, who were presumably exposed to more infectious agents than others.  It is also used to explain the higher incidence of allergic diseases in industrialized countries.

Focus on Your Skin Health

The above studies remind us that your skin is actually your primary defence against bacteria - not the soap.

And your skin’s health depends first and foremost on how you nourish it from the inside. As you know, our Total Balance range provides excellent nutritional supplementation. Then our skincare feeds your skin from the outside.

For those of you who want to be clean, but not to the extent of compromising your health, what do you do?

Use a mild non-antibacterial soap for your hands and body. And our natural Foaming Facial Cleanser for your face.

You may also wish to consider other naturally occurring antibacterial agents.

Lemon juice, for example, changes the pH level in bacterial cells, creating an acidic environment in which microbes can't survive. Bleach and certain alcohols completely obliterate the cells of the bacteria. Unlike the targeted attack of antimicrobial agents, bleach and certain alcohols simply cause the cells to lyse, or rupture.

Why haven't bacteria adapted to the agents found in bleach, alcohol and lemon juice?

The reason why bacteria aren't resistant to these agents is because they do not leave a residue. There is no chance for surviving bacteria to adapt within the residual environment, so bacteria are just as susceptible to bleach and alcohol as they were 100 years ago.

The Good Old Days!

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