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Soapbox: Are antimicrobial products making you sick?
Written by the team at Zesty, the London-based commercial and domestic cleaning contractor...
Antimicrobial agents seem ubiquitous these days, showing up in many of our everyday products - soaps, detergents, sprays, you name it. They are marketed to us as consumers and as professionals as safer and more protective than ordinary products.
Many of us think that we're less likely to get sick if we use 'antibacterial' soap and wash our hands often but are these products safer or are they making us sick?
What many people don't know is that these anti-bacterial soaps wash away not only the bad, but also the good bacteria.
Studies conducted by Aiello et al from 2007 - 2011 showed that gastrointestinal diseases were reduced by half when ordinary soap was used, however when antibacterial soap was used, the diseases were only reduced by a little less than half. These studies also showed that, in healthy people, the effects of both soaps don't really matter; however in chronically sick people with the likes of diabetes and asthma, antibacterial soaps actually made them sicker by increasing their fevers, runny noses and coughs. Evidently, using antibacterial soap doesn't make you any healthier.
Triclosan is a key ingredient in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, children's toys, etc. It is an antimicrobial agent which kills every single bacterium that it comes across. This means that it not only kills the bad bacteria but also the good bacteria which are present to fight off the bad bacteria. It can also kill human cells.
The effects of this chemical basically renders the immune system vulnerable to attack. Other effects of Triclosan include: hormone disruption, brain damage, cancer and weight gain (because it is a synthetic chemical which the body views as foreign tissue which can be stored as fat that is difficult to shed). Triclosan may also be creating bacterial resistance!
Triclosan was found to have caused liver cancer in mice. In a study by Robert H. Tukey (PhD) in 2014, it was discovered that when mice were exposed to Triclosan for six months (18 human years), they were more susceptible to chemical-induced liver cancer - compared with the mice that were not exposed to the chemical, their tumours were larger.
According to this research, Triclosan interferes with the constitutive androstane receptor which is a protein that detoxifies foreign chemicals in the body. Without the action of this protein, liver cells proliferate and turn fibrotic over time. Triclosan was previously used as a pesticide and a surgical scrub for medical professionals, but is now being used in a lot of consumer products like cutting boards and clothes so as to reduce the spread of bacteria caused by odours.
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has also found no evidence showing that Triclosan-containing soaps are more effective than plain soap that does not incorporate the chemical.
It just so happens that ordinary soap without all the chemicals included can clean your hands better than any soap with the added chemicals. Ordinary soap will help maintain the concentration of bacterial flora on your hands which protect the skin from infection, unlike soap with the added chemicals which will do the exact opposite.
The reality of the whole situation is that we are really not allowing our immune systems the opportunity to fight off all this bad bacteria by using these soaps filled with chemicals. This is the major reason why people get sick. The immune system needs to come in contact with foreign bacteria/viruses first so that it knows which ones not to allow in next time (this is the whole premise behind vaccines). If we don't allow it, then we get all sorts of illnesses.
In other words, you have to expose yourself to germs, in order to fight them off. Sickness allows our bodies to detoxify.
Word of advice: Replace antibacterial soap with more natural soaps made from virgin oils.
This article has been brought to you by Zesty, a professional cleaning service based in London.
5th February 2015