Beware when using anti-bacterial Soaps
Anti-bacterial soaps confidently promise its users germ-free hands. But did you know that how we use it now is actually leading to more harm than good?
In a review paper, Arizona State University’s Centre for Environmental Security Director Rolf Halden said that the way people use anti-bacterial soaps is wrong. He said that these soaps have little or no benefit to the public because they are not used correctly, making them no more effective than regular soap and water.
To maximise the full power of anti-bacterial soaps, people need to wash their hands for 20 to 30 seconds. In average, people just spend six seconds washing their hands.
But that’s not all. Halden and research from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveal there are more harmful effects of using anti-bacterial soaps:
- Because people are improperly washing their hands, they are not killing the bacteria. Instead, they are making them more resistant to the soap’s anti-bacterial agent called triclosan.
This means that misuse of the soaps creates more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a trend that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers a ‘threat to global health security.’
- Triclosan, a main and active ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps, toothpastes, sprays, detergents and other cleaning products, can affect the hormones of the body.
Studies show that triclosan resembles the thyroid hormone, disrupting the body’s normal regulation of the endocrine system. This could lead to health risks like obesity, infertility and cancer.
- Prolonged exposure to triclosan could trigger allergies among children, suggests a study. Reduced exposure to bacteria due to the killing of germs could make the immune system of children less exposed to them, impairing the development of resistance to the germs.
- When improperly drained, triclosan is known to accumulate in bodies of water. The chemical disrupts algae’s photosynthesis and poses an environmental risk.
To address this problem, the FDA has already asked manufacturers of anti-bacterial soaps to prove that their products are safe. Halden said ‘The FDA’s move [prevents] unnecessary exposure of the general population to … potentially harmful chemicals.’