Anti-Antibacterial AKA No I Don’t Want to Touch the Baby


And from Natural Life Magazine

Q: I’ve just had a baby and want to make sure she has the healthiest possible start in life. With all the viruses and bacteria around us, I am trying to keep our home as clean as possible. But during a recent visit, my mother-in-law said I shouldn’t be using antibacterial soap. I figure that using it is one of the no-brainer things we can do. So who is right?

A: There is a great deal of evidence that the use of antibacterial soap in the normal household is unnecessary and causes far more harm than good, both to human health and the environment.

Since 2000, the American Medical Association (AMA) has been advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to closely monitor and possibly regulate the home use of antimicrobials. At the AMA annual meeting in 2000, Myron Genel, chair of the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs and a Yale University pediatrician, said, “There’s no evidence that they do any good and there’s reason to suspect that they could contribute to a problem” by helping to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And just this past fall, the FDA finally announced that it is considering restricting antibacterial soaps, which its panel of health experts overwhelmingly said have not been proven any more effective than regular soap in preventing infections among average consumers. Actions the FDA could take include changing product labels, restricting marketing claims or pulling the products off the market altogether.

The advisory panel told the FDA that consumer products that include bacteria-fighting ingredients should be required to have scientific data proving they prevent infections. At issue are antibacterial products that include chemicals such as triclosan, which is known for its bacteria-fighting properties.

However, antibiotics kill more than the disease-causing bacteria to which they are directed. They kill any other susceptible bacteria. Once the ecosystem is cleared of susceptible bacteria, resistant bacteria can multiply and dominate the environment due to lack of competition, resulting in drug-resistant “superbugs”. The phenomenon can be likened to weeds that have overgrown a lawn where the grass has been completely destroyed by an overdose of herbicides. The ubiquity of the antibacterials in soaps “is a worrying thing,” lead researcher Dr. Eli N. Perencevich of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, told the media at a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in New Orleans in 2000. He said at the level of usage of antibacterial soap in the typical home, bacteria could easily develop that would be resistant to both antibiotics and the antibacterial soaps themselves.