Antibacterial Products Aren’t Just Useless—They Can Be Killers

Q: I’ve been using antibacterial soap to prevent the spread of germs around my house. But now I’m hearing these soaps may actually increase the risk of infection. What gives? Are they safe or not?

––Robert A., Burlington, VT

A: In a word, no. Antibacterial products are absolutely not safe, and are potentially quite dangerous.

Here’s why. As we age, one of the greatest risks we face is developing an infection. An infection, especially if it lingers, can unleash a variety of life-threatening complications. Antibacterial products may actually increase your risk of getting an infection because they encourage the growth of resistance bacteria. Resistance bacteria are very hard to kill, and if you become infected with them, your illness may be harder to treat.

How is this possible? Well, it appears the main culprit is usually a chemical called triclosan, which is found in antibacterial soaps, tooth­paste, mouth wash, deodorants, first-aid creams, kitchenware, clothes, and toys. For a complete list by brand, go to www.beyondpesticides.org.

Triclosan kills bacteria—at first. But research has shown that prominent bacteria such as e.coli, salmonella, shigella and other intestinal bacteria become resistant to it pretty quickly. These bacteria learn to use an internal pump to expel the triclosan when they come into contact with it. Bacteria has an instinct for survival—it was around before us, and it will be here long after we’re gone.

But the bad news about triclosan doesn’t end there. It is what we call an endocrine disruptor, and may interfere with normal functioning of your thyroid hormone and estrogen. It’s associated with allergies and can become contaminated with dioxin, a known carcinogen. This is particularly troublesome, because triclosan stores itself in fat. That’s right…

This deadly chemical actually accumulates in your body!

The FDA and EPA are responsible for regulating this chemical—and, frankly, they’ve done almost nothing to inform the public of its risks. Instead, they’ve stood by while the manufacturers of products containing triclosan continue to tout its germ-killing ability and prey on the ignorance of the germophobic public.

The marketing for triclosan products has been so effective that some people are afraid to wash their hands—or anything else for that matter—without an antibacterial product. Let me put your fear to rest—study after study (after study) has shown these products are no more effective than regular, old-fashioned soap and water.

Use warm water to lather your hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds and then rinse for another 15 seconds. Then take a clean towel to dry your hands and sweep any remaining bacteria off your skin. If you need to use a hand sanitizer, make it one with alcohol, which flat out kills microbes without helping them develop resistance.

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About the author

author-picture

Dr. Inglis works closely with his patients to help them take charge of their health and well-being without resorting to expensive drugs and dangerous surgeries.

He is currently the director of Integrated Health Solutions,  and is on the board of NOAH - a wellness center in Great Barrington, MA.


Comments

Anonymous's picture
1

Anonymous

the immune system needs practice.

Anonymous's picture
2

Anonymous

Healthy foods.... WE grow our own veggies, eggs, chicken, raw goat milk, raw cheeses and butter, homemade breads, buy little or nothing from store. Lots of hard work, but well worth it. Our raw goats milk coes from our friends and is always freah, drink at least a gallon daily.We treat al our livestock and gardens with love and respect and it pays off in incredable wholesome food that prevents as well as satisfies. Currently we are getting wild aspargus, none better, picked from local pastures. every day we eat like kings foods most cannot buy at any price, we are blessed. i have taken no prescription medication for several years despite intense migranes which ive found medical marijuana vaporized, and as a legal patient in Colo. I truely benifit from this alternative medication, like is good on the farm......

Anonymous's picture
3

Anonymous

It just may be that triclosan is on its way out. CIBA, the company that manufactures triclosan, is testing a much safer alternative called Tinosan SDC (produced by PURE Bioscience), a unique compound comprised of citric acid and silver. Apparently bacteria do not develop resistance to it and it is completely non-toxic.

Wolfie's picture
4

Wolfie

My wife bought some toothpaste a while back, "total health" or some such crud. Looked at the ingredients and it had "Triclosan" in it. What the heck are they doin putting antibiotics in my toothpaste? that's disgusting.

Anonymous's picture
5

james simms

what is in or on vicryl that gave a terrible itch since recovery room?

Anonymous's picture
6

Alice

Just a question...Exactly how does triclosan kill bacteria in the first place? I'm curious. Does it bond to the bacteria in order to weaken it or kill it or something? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous's picture
7

Anonymous

the FDA does not care about us it only about money and power

Anonymous's picture
8

Les Kacev

Can you please point me to studies which show that triclosan causes resistant bacteria? I saw a study years ago done in a lab which was never replicated. I see some of the people that made comments confuse antibacterials with antibiotics. These are vastly different with different processes for attacking bacteria. I have seen studies where bacteria mutate so that antibiotics become ineffective. But because antibacterials are not targeted and act on the cytoplasmic membrane of bacteria and prevent their growth, it would be difficult to cause mutations. I saw an article by Dietmar Ochs titled Biocidal Resistance many years ago which made a synopsis of studies related to Triclosan. It makes interesting reading. I also saw an FDA study by Gusewich and Ross which showed that triclosan was effective when compared to other products, and that its residual effect enhanced performance.
I would therefore like to see the studies which show that triclosan can cause super resistant bacteria.

Anonymous's picture
9

Anonymous

educate yourself people, do not buy any product show that has any percentage of triclosan, it is deadly. it react with the water to form chloroform which may cause serious damage to your skin, your skin absorb it all the way even if you try to put water to clean it, your skin will still absorb it
DO NOT USE ANYTHING HAS TRICLOSAN IN IT

Anonymous's picture
10

Anonymous

Omg they should get rid of this crap if its mutating germs and making them strong enough to kill people and cause other health problems

Anonymous's picture
11

Anonymous

Me and my wife had muscle and joint pain, she was told she might have fiber mi-alga. A friend of ours had similar problems and she said she had blood test and was over dosing on triclosan and she asked my wife if we used toothpaste with triclosan in it...we did. We stopped using it and I can't believe how much better we feel. We are 41 and 42 and we couldn't understand why we felt like we where 80.

Anonymous's picture
12

Anonymous

Although triclosan should be phased out, there is no firm evidence showing that bacteria develop resistance. It was in a study done by one man, whose methods were determined to be flawed. In addition, it is only proven to be an endocrine disruptor in bullfrogs. Personally, I think there needs to be more research to be done about the negative effects of triclosan, because it seems that there is potential for that.

However, media sensationalism paints triclosan to be much more dangerous than it actually is, and most of the public doesn't bother doing their research and buys whatever the media tells them. It's a pity, really.

Also, triclosan works as some antibiotics do; it targets an enzyme that is needed for production of the cell membrane of the bacterium. Without it, the bacterium would not be able to divide, and thus die. Since humans do not have this enzyme, it does not affect us.

Anonymous's picture
13

Anonymous

Thank you for so eloquently writing on this topic in a way that makes Triclosan and the potential dangers very easy to understand! Your patients are fortunate.

Anonymous's picture
14

Anonymous

That's nice!, more dangers from products they don't want us to be informed about! This doesn't surprise me. What should we do now. I believe the wise thing to do is NOT to continue using the Anti-bacterial products! Your opinion would be appreciated! Thank You!

Anonymous's picture
15

Anonymous

i have been using colgate total whitening gel for 2 months and my mouth is funny feeling like swollen but dosnt look swollen it feel like lines on the undersie of my top lip i have read these postings and wonder if anyone else has experienced the same prob it has been puzzleing until now

Anonymous's picture
16

Anonymous

Yes, same result for me with that brand toothpaste! Just discovered it last night...been using it for a week & 1/2, and my tongue is swollen! Also, my eyes & surrounding areas have become very red & swollen, so figured it was something I was 'ingesting' by mouth. Wow!

Anonymous's picture
17

TWINLUV

The Endometriosis Association have done studies on dioxin and found out that it is a hormone disrupter that causes endometrisois. Triclosan is another source of dioxin.

Anonymous's picture
18

Sadiq

I've sinusitis with serious halitosis. When I discovered a toothpaste with triclosan, the initial effect on bad breath was tremendous. I continued using it for 2 years even when its efficacy became less obvious. My pre-existing depression became unresponsive to various anti-depressants prescribed by doctors; life became unbearable and 'near-vegetative'. Instinctively, I stopped using the toothpaste about 5 days ago and can't remember feeling better in more than a year. that is what has caused me to search the internet on the possible side effects of triclosan. Thanks.

Anonymous's picture
19

Anonymous

I have used antibacterial soap with triclosan ingredient to shower with for a year. Guess I won't do that anymore. So far I don't see any ill affects. But I'm all for saving money, so all those antibacterial products will be cut out of my budget.

Anonymous's picture
20

Anonymous

You do not need any toothpaste to keep your teeth clean, you rinse after meals, use a soft toothbrush to clean around the gums you can do this practically anywhere, our saliva will kill most of the bacteria, my point is why do they want to add all of these crap to begin with, while a solution of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide made into a paste and work it around the gums is a perfect solution as one prominent Dr suggested and carefully flossing is a good alternative too. JAM

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