Anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners are not necessary, and are not a healthy choice. Many advertisements play on parents’ fear of germs.
They imply that anti-bacterial, anti-microbial or disinfectant cleaners, sprays and even toys are important for a healthy environment for a child. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many people choose anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners because advertising implies that using them will help protect your family against colds and flus.
But colds and flus are viruses, and anti-bacterials have no effect on them at all.
Several reasons why experts recommend not using anti-bacterial products for home use are:
- In addition to being unnecessary, they expose us to harmful chemicals. The two most commonly used anti-bacterial chemicals in soaps are triclosan and chloroxylenol (or PCMX). Triclosan is a suspected immunotoxin, and a suspected skin or sense organ toxicant. It is classified as a high volume chemical: over a million pounds are used annually in the US. Triclosan is a derivative of the herbicide 2,4-D. It creates dioxin, a carcinogen, as a by-product. A Swedish study found high levels of this bactericide in human breast milk. Chloroxylenol is also a suspected immunotoxin and skin or sense organ toxicant, as well as a gastrointestinal or liver toxicant.
- Not all bacteria make people sick. Some are beneficial. Anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners kill both beneficial and harmful bacteria. By killing the beneficial ones, they actually leave us more vulnerable to the harmful ones we encounter. Children especially need exposure to some germs, to develop their immune systems.
- Scientists are concerned that the widespread use of anti-bacterials contributes to the development of resistant bacteria, bacteria that will only be killed by different or stronger doses of chemicals. So when we need to kill harmful bacteria, like strep, staph and e-coli, it will be more difficult.
- Anti-bacterial soaps may be more irritating and drying to skin.
The US Center for Disease Control says that anti-bacterial soaps are not necessary. They recommend that the simplest and most effective thing people can do to reduce the spread of infectious disease is to use effective handwashing, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Proper handwashing means rubbing hands under running water for 15 seconds.
Cleaning products with added anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and disinfectant ingredients have similar risks to antibacterial soaps, and are equally unnecessary for normal home use.