Parents have always scrambled to buy antibacterial soap in the hopes of stemming the tide of illness that frequently travels through the family. This, despite the fact that plain, regular soap works just fine.
The main ingredient in antibacterial soap—triclosan (and the related triclocarban)—recently came under fire from environmental groups, researchers and government agencies. It's been discovered that the compounds in triclosan and triclocarban led to developmental and reproductive problems in the animal test subjects—and could potentially do the same to humans, as well.
In the most recent study, the compound was found in the urine of all the pregnant women tested, as well as in approximately half of the umbilical cord samples. According to Science Daily, triclosan is being transferred to the fetuses, too. Antibacterial soap may also increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Read more: Do your kids really need vitamins?>
Here's the thing: you don’t need antibacterial soap. Independent studies have shown that washing with regular soap is just as effective as washing with antibacterial soap. Even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states such products are, at best, ineffective, and, at worst, harmful. So, what is an anxious parent to do in the face of all the germs waiting to latch onto our immune systems? One solution is to allow a little dirt into your home—studies have shown exposure to germs can help with allergies and boost the immune system. Most importantly, wash your hands thoroughly. Ensure that everyone washes their fingertips and in-between their fingers.
It’s not just about our kids—the environment may be at risk, too. According to the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the chemicals have been pooling in the Great Lakes and the group has asked the Canadian government to ban the compounds. The chemicals are in more than 2000 products, including mattresses, cutting boards and yoga mats. The American FDA is considering limiting the chemicals; the agency is now asking manufacturers to prove that the antibacterial products are more effective than plain soap and water. Companies such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson announced that they will start phasing out the chemicals in some products (which still may take years).
Beat them to it, parents! Start phasing antibacterial lotions out of your home now.
Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.