Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Antibacterial Soap and Sanitizer: Safe or Risky?

At the close of my most recent post, 'Chiropractic Immunity Adjustments and 5 Other Tips For a Strong Immune System', I referred to couple of questions that I am often asked, in relation to immunity.  One of these questions is,
"What about antibacterial soaps, and should I wipe down surfaces with antibacterial wipes?"
The study of antibacterial soaps and sanitizers have been widely scrutinized in the last decade.  The findings on the effectiveness of these products may surprise you.

FDA Warnings

On April 8, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration acknowledged two key points relating to the use of antibacterial products and the long-term health effects.  Here is what they stated:

1)  The antibacterial chemical triclosan, is no more effective than regular soap and water at preventing infections.
2) There is concern over triclosan's potential long-term health effects due to the development of antibiotic resistance from product use over time.


A 2004 research group from Columbia University and New York University found in their study, that the effects of antibacterial products did not reduce the risk of viral infectious diseases within a household of healthy individuals.  A review given by the Oxford Journal: Clinical of Infectious Diseases, concluded these same results after reviewing data from twenty-seven studies dated from 1980-2006:
"Soaps containing triclosan within the range of concentrations commonly used in the community setting (0.1%–0.45% wt/vol) were no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms and reducing bacterial levels on the hands."
As for the second point mentioned by the FDA, that there is a concern for the potential long-term health effects related to antibacterial product use and a development of antibiotic resistance due to such use, the Oxford Journal referred to this concern in their review, as well.
"Several laboratory studies demonstrated evidence of triclosan-adapted cross-resistance to antibiotics among different species of bacteria."
 The Oxford Journal concluded their findings with:
"The lack of an additional health benefit associated with the use of triclosan-containing consumer soaps over regular soap, coupled with laboratory data demonstrating a potential risk of selecting for drug resistance, warrants further evaluation by governmental regulators regarding antibacterial product claims and advertising. Further studies of this issue are encouraged."
Hand Sanitizer and Children
Lastly, I feel it important to mention that in extreme cases, anti-bacterial sanitizers can be extremely harmful to children.  There have been documented cases of children ingesting the liquid and becoming poisoned by the high-alcohol content within the product.  Some sanitizers on the market carry at 65% alcohol content.  Children are curious and can be especially curious if sanitizers smell like something they would like to taste.  Read more on children and hand-sanitizers, here. 

Best in health, naturally,
Dr. Marc


4 of the most dangerous myths about washing your hands . (Feb., 2011 25). Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/25/myths-about-hand-hygiene.aspx 
(2007). Consumer antibacterial soaps: effective or just risky?. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 45(Supp 2), 137-147. Retrieved from http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/45/Supplement_2/S137.short

Larson, E., Lin, S., Gomez-Pichardo, C., & Della-Latta, F. (2004). Effect of antibacterial home cleaning and handwashing products on infectious disease symptoms: a randomized, double-blind trial. 

Mikkelson, D. P., & Mikkelson, B. (Feb., 2009 24). Booze ooze. Retrieved from http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/sanitizer.asp 



Health Disclaimer

This information on this web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting Dr. Marc, your pediatrician or family doctor.

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