Friday, October 16, 2009

Antibacterial soap

For starters, there is little proof that the antibacterial soap you buy at the drug store actually kills the most-dreaded microbes: S. aureus (staph) and E. coli. Plus, living in a disinfected bubble can actually be bad for your health and the environment. Many experts believe that too much sanitization weakens the immune system and may create lethal superbugs that are antibiotic resistant. If that's not enough, the bacteria-killing chemicals go down the drain and into our waterways, harming wildlife and potentially ending up back in our bodies where they can present health risks.

Although you have likely heard at least some of this before, you probably still reach for the antibacterial soap to clean your bathroom and wash your hands. The psychological draw is undeniable. In fact, scientists' warnings have not dampened the burgeoning market. Antibacterial products are a one billion dollar industry and make up nearly 80 percent of all liquid soaps. In 2003, there were fewer than 200 antibacterial products on the market; currently there are over 3,000.

The biggest--and most publicized--concern is whether antibacterial products, like the overuse of antibiotics, will eventually create more of the untreatable bacteria we fear. By creating a hostile environment, antibacterial agents promote strains of bacteria with certain mutations that allow them to survive. These superbugs are also more likely to be immune to antibiotics. The most commonly used antimicrobial in soaps--triclosa--has already shown resistance to S. aureous.
Antibacterial soaps: Unnecessary risks, no benefits

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