It seems like you can’t even buy a soap that isn’t “antibacterial” anymore and often that those soaps are cheaper than the others! Indeed, it seems like antibacterial soap is everywhere now, in everything from shampoo to bar soaps. The idea is that we are crawling with germs and this stuff will keep us from getting sick. However, being an old lady these days I remember a time before they invented this stuff and I don’t recall being sick all the time. So are they really an upgrade in our lifestyles or is this just overkill?
Well, according to doctors in hospitals all across the country there is growing concern over “antibiotic resistance” which is fast becoming more dangerous than the germs themselves. We have developed antibiotic resistant bacteria that are responsible for killer diseases like MRSA and flesh eating bacteria. The general consensus is that factory farming is to blame for this with the non stop treatment of farm animals to prevent infections. But there is also a concern over the use of antibacterial soaps and sprays. Our immune systems need to be exposed to germs in order to develop resistance to them.. and the current rage over antibacterial environments does not allow that to happen.
Because of the growing problem with MRSA and other resistant bacteria, researchers have been trying to figure out what can be done about it. Studies were done to test the emerging theory that antibacterial soaps are leading to some of this bacterial resistance. In one study researchers provided half the households with soaps and cleaners that contained antibacterial agents with 2% triclosan and then also supplied the other households with regular, old fashioned soaps and cleansers. At the beginning of the study, cultures were taken from the hands of everyone in the household and then at the end of the study, one year later, cultures were taken again.
Here is the amazing result: the researchers DID NOT find any significant difference between the two groups. This study is currently considered fair proof that antibacterial soaps and cleaners did not necessarily cause bacteria to become resistant. Which is a good thing for us because we now know that these products simply aren’t dangerous. But the downside is that, in truth, antibacterial soaps and cleaners do not provide any benefits over regular soaps and cleaners. So it doesn’t really matter if you use them or not!
It is true that a more extensive study should really be done to determine for sure whether there is a link between these antibacterial agents and drug resistant bacterial diseases. Since only antibacterial agents containing 0.2% triclosan were studied we have no idea how the other antibacterial agents effect us. But the results from these studies currently conclude that: antibacterial soaps and cleaners provide no greater benefit than regular soaps and cleaners, antibacterial soap and cleaners (with 0.2% triclosan) do not necessarily contribute to drug resistance and that more research is needed to come to any definite conclusions about the risks or benefits of antibacterial products, both in our personal products and in our food.