Just Rub Some Dirt On It: Antibacterial Soaps May Be Making Us Sicker

Antibacterial soap may not be any better for you than regular soap (or bath bomb soap). In fact, it might actually be worse.

That’s according to one study out of Milwaukee that looked at the main two chemicals used for antimicrobials: triclosan and triclocarban. Both are helpful to surgeons who are required to scrub for a long time in order to work in a sterile environment. But most people trying to wash up for dinner aren’t cleaning their hands for quite that long, meaning the chemicals don’t have time to do their intended job. They do have plenty of time to seep into your blood stream, though.

The FDA approved triclosan and other antibacterial ingredients for use in hand soaps. Now it’s re-investigating. According to Ars Technica, the Food and Drug Administration has asked companies to submit data backing up the claims that those soaps are “better” than other kinds of cleansers. The findings of that report are due in September.

You’ve probably heard someone tell you that all these antibacterial products are actually making kids less resistant to germs. Patrick McNamara, a researcher at Marquette University, has done studies on both triclosan and triclocarban, and found that that chestnut might not be totally unfounded. In his reports, both chemicals have a tendency to overproduce a gene called mexB, which causes your gut to reject common prescription antibiotics.

A researcher at the University of Michigan found that over 40% of people tested had traces of triclosan in their snot, which actually makes your nose more susceptible to things like staph infections. (STAPH INFECTIONS. In your NOSE. YEEEECCCCH!) According to the CDC, millions of people develop antibiotic-resistant infections annually, with on average 23,000 people dying each year.

So you can imagine how terrifying it might be to think all that triclosan you’re absorbing through your skin because of your soap may be doing more harm than good. We just won’t know how much harm until later this year. The silver lining for right now is, the FDA already has prohibited the use of triclosan in “leave-on” products — like that bucket of Purell hand sanitizer you’ve probably been eyeing suspiciously while reading this.

Alcohol-based cleansers and good old fashioned soap still work great, though.

(Via Ars Technica)