When we hear about terrifying illnesses like the Swine Flu or SARS, we automatically go into what I call “germ-mode.” That means constant scrubbing of hands with anti-bacterial soap, wiping of counters and workspaces with products that “kill germs,” and let’s not forget the use of Purell, or Purell-like products. We do anything we can so as not to catch anything.
The excessive use of anti-bacterial products is proving to actually be harmful to our health. Yes, they kill all bacteria and germs. That is the key element – KILLS all bacteria and germs. Humans have good bacteria and bad bacteria and we need some good bacteria to ward off the bad bacteria. Regular soap removes dirt and germs, but allows certain bacteria to remain – the healthy kind. Using an anti-bacterial soap removes both bacteria, leaving the body with a more difficult time to fight germs. Anti-bacterial items can also make the body more prone to stronger types of bacteria, which is why the U.S. is seeing rises in bacteria-related illnesses such as “Flesh Eating Disease.”
“If you are healthy and have a strong immune system, stick to the regular soaps and products. If you are sick and your immune system is compromised a bit, use anti-bacterials to prevent the spread of germs.”
The primary ingredient in anti-bacterial products is “Triclosan.” Triclosan is found in everything from garbage bags, cleaning products, soap, laundry products and even sponges. Studies have found that the more you are exposed to these products the more difficult it is for your body to actually ward off infections and germs, as you don’t have a strong enough natural resistance built up. Triclosan is also terrible for the environment as it doesn’t really biodegrade and ends up in our water supply.
In 2008 a panel organized by the FDA found that anti-bacterial soap was no more effective in killing germs than regular soap. The only difference was a greater reduction in healthy bacteria. In 2000 and 2001 the CDC published studies citing the same thing and has published several papers since. Also worth noting is that most illnesses that people pick up are viruses. Triclosan or what an anti-bacterial is primarily made out of doesn’t even kill viruses (even the Swine Flu). What kills the virus is the alcohol that is also most likely in the product.
Stuart Levy for the CDC says, “These agents, like antibiotics, are not cure-alls but have a designated purpose. Whereas antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial (not viral) infections, antibacterial products protect vulnerable patients from infectious disease-causing organisms. Neither are demonstrably useful in the healthy household.” If you are healthy and have a strong immune system, stick to the regular soaps and products. If you are sick and your immune system is compromised a bit, use anti-bacterials to prevent the spread of germs. Your body is designed to fight off a lot of thing naturally. Let it do its job!