In trying to eradicate all traces of bacteria from our environment we have been using antibacterial soaps, hand wash, wipes and hand gels for years - but have they truly protected us against disease? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
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Although some tests have proved that triclosan and triclocarbon, the main ingredients found in antimicrobial/antiseptic/antibacterial soaps and gels, kill slightly more bacteria than our old-fashioned soap, they do not necessarily protect us against gastrointestinal and respiratory infections or viruses.
Studies have shown that triclosan and triclocarbon scramble hormones in our body, interfering with the body's regulation of thyroid hormone, leading to the disruption of the development of the reproductive system and metabolism.
Keeping our environment as clean as a whistle has had some adverse effects; we are no longer exposed to certain types of harmless bacteria and everyday foreign substances such as dirt, pollen, and mold which are important for the development of a healthy immune system. Consequently, chances for developing allergies have been increasing over the years.
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Moreover, triclosan and triclocarbon make these bacteria resistant to certain disinfectants and antibiotics - which is why it is harder now to fight these super-bugs.
Besides wreaking havoc in our body, they also pollute our environment. Since these chemicals end up down the drain, studies have shown that they are now present in nearly 60 percent of all rivers and streams, with levels also steadily increasing in lake sediment. When combined with other chemicals like chlorine in tap water, they form toxic chemicals and pollute our environment.
Being no more effective than the old-fashioned soap and water, antibacterial soaps are now being branded unsafe for use by the FDA. Manufacturers have been given until 2016 to prove their effectiveness or remove them from shelves.