The scoop on soap

By • Published: September 6th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Think rubbing a squirt of germ-gobbling goo in your hands will help fend off infections?

Or maybe you think the antibacterial soap you use will kill nasty microbes that could interfere with your family’s health.

Think again.

New research shows that neither sudsy froth nor cool gel will eliminate harmful bacteria more than the plain, old soap and water your grandmother used.

In fact, scientists say using antibacterial products may cause more harm than good.

Here’s why. Scan the ingredients on hand-sanitizer or around a bar of antibacterial soap and you will likely see the word “triclosan.”

Triclosan is the active ingredient in most antibacterial products. It’s also used in disinfectants, cosmetics and some types of toothpaste.

It is very effective in killing bacteria but only at certain levels. It seems the small amount found in most consumer products is not enough to kill the harmful bacteria on your body or in your home.

But the accumulation of Triclosan in the environment has some scientists worried that its use could have a huge and long-lasting impact.

For example, exposure to an antibiotic like Triclosan could result in resistant strains of bacteria. This in turn could make infections harder to treat and have an impact on human health.

The bad news doesn’t end there.

Triclosan has been shown to alter hormone regulation and seems to interfere with the functioning of the thyroid and the production of estrogen… which could affect reproduction.

Further studies on triclosan are expected to be made public next year.

Until then, try scrubbing germs away the old-fashioned way: Lather, rinse and rub using gentle soap, warm water and a clean towel, and experts say bacteria should be swept off your skin.