Taking a look at the role of bacteria on a larger scale, antibacterial soaps can be even more dangerous as researchers now suspect that they may be involved in creating antibiotic-resistant super bacteria that have the potential to harm the population on a larger scale.
Indeed, recent research suggests these products may encourage the growth of “superbugs” resistant to antimicrobial agents, a problem when these bacteria run rampant, turning into a dangerous infection that cannot be treated with available medication.
Similar growth of drug-resistant strains has already occurred with antibiotics. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to several drug-resistant microbes, such as streptococcus pneumonia and strains of E. coli.
Triclosan creates an environment where the resistant, mutated bacteria are more likely to survive,” says Levy, who published a study on the germicide two years ago in the journal Nature.
Have thyroid problems or hormone imbalance? I do, and it turns out that antibacterial chemicals could be one contributing factor. Several studies (like this one and this one) showed that triclosan and similar chemicals disrupted the body’s ability to uptake thyroid hormone and interfered with other hormone processes in the body.
This hormone imbalance can lead to more advanced problems like infertility, obesity and several cancers.
Yet another study found that use of triclosan led to build up of staph aureus bacteria in the nose and other parts of the body. This led to an increased risk of infection, amputation and even death (especially after a surgery). This explains:
Triclosan, a chemical found in the majority of anti-bacterial hand and dish soaps, was picked up in the nasal passages of 41 percent of the adults sampled by researchers at the University of Michigan. Those with triclosan in their noses were more likely to also have colonies of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (commonly referred to as “staph”).
Most importantly though, was that researchers found a potential link between the two: Triclosan appears to help the staph bacteria grab hold and bind to proteins in the nose.
“I think we have been seeing a lot of this over the past few years, that perhaps these antimicrobial soaps are doing more harm than good,” said Dr. Melissa Osborn, an infectious disease specialist with MetroHealth Medical Center. “We know that one of the reasons that staph aureus colonizes some people’s noses is that it adheres to some of the proteins in the nose. Triclosan actually promoted that adhesion.”
Having staph aureus in your nose — which is the case for about 30 percent of people — is not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but is a risk factor for getting other infections such as surgical site infections, boils, catheter site infections in people on dialysis and diabetic foot ulcers.
Widespread use of antibacterial chemicals, especially in hand soaps, has led to these chemicals getting washed down drains and into the water system. Studies show that these chemicals can remain, even after water treatment and these chemicals (and many others, including plastic based chemicals) are being found in streams and waterways around the world.
This is especially concerning because they appear to affect algae and marine life in dramatic ways:
The chemical is also fat-soluble—meaning that it builds up in fatty tissues—so scientists are concerned that it can biomagnify, appearing at greater levels in the tissues of animals higher up the food chain, as the triclosan of all the plants and animals below them is concentrated. Evidence of this possibility was turned up in 2009, when surveys of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of South Carolina and Florida found concerning levels of the chemical in their blood.
WHICH WAY FORWARD?
I’ve found that the best and least expensive way to avoid antibacterial chemicals is to make many of our own products. Since studies show that regular soap and water are just as effective, I just focus on teaching our children proper hand washing and hygiene.
We use homemade hand soap at home and natural soap and water hand washing spray when we are on the go. I also make our own soap from coconut oil and olive oil to avoid the chemicals in many conventional soaps. I’ve also used store bought natural hand soap in the past.