Antibacterial Soaps Contain Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

| 4/15/2010 3:32:28 PM

I’ve never liked antibacterial hand soaps. My hands don’t feel clean when I use them, the smell makes me nauseous, and I’ve always been skeptical about a product that kills only 99.9 percent of germs. The 0.1 percent that doesn’t die reproduces, creating a strain of antibacterial-resistant germs. Close, but no cigar. 

Looks like that 0.1 percent of germs is the least of our worries, however. According to a new report from the National Resources Defense Council, up to 75 percent of antibacterial products contain triclosan and triclocarban, hormone-disrupting chemicals. Triclosan interferes with chemicals that regulate our thyroids, and while scientists haven’t fully studied the effects of triclosan, other thyroid-disrupting chemicals have been shown to cause problems in brain and nervous system development, leading to learning or behavior problems later in life. Triclocarban enhances the activity of other hormone-disrupting chemicals such as sex hormones that regulate estrogen and testosterone.

antibacterial hand soap
Up to 75 percent of antibacterial products contain triclosan and triclocarban, hormone-disrupting chemicals. Photo By Erik Herrera/Courtesy Flickr. 

2004 report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 75 percent of adults and children older than six had detectable traces of triclosan in their blood stream. Triclosan is also polluting our waterways; after getting washed down the drain, the chemical ends up in water treatment plants, where it can’t be processed well and eventually winds up in water systems, often at levels toxic to wildlife.

It’s easy to avoid triclosan and triclocarban; they’re printed right on the label. Next time you think of reaching for an antibacterial soap while you’re out, look for a restroom instead; simple soap and water is still the best way to clean your hands.

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