For almost 5000 years, soap has helped the human race thrive by cleansing our bodies and belongings of harmful bacteria. Research of ancient Babylon revealed evidence that Babylonians were making soap around 2800 B.C. Babylonians were the first civilization to master the art of soap making.
Then came the perfect storm of toxins, fear, and good marketing…and antibacterial and anti-microbial products were born. With marketing that puts the fear of “harmful bacteria” into the minds of the consumer, why wouldn’t you buy something that costs $2.99 to protect your family from illness?
Lets talk about bacteria. Without bacteria we would not be here, literally. Scientists believe it was the chemical processes of early cyanobacteria, harnessing the energy from the sun, that released the oxygen that makes up our atmosphere. It took 2 billion years for the bacteria to build up enough oxygen in the atmosphere to allow for the evolution of multi-cellular organisms. Bacteria is used to make food like pickles, vinegar, and soy sauce…yum! It is also responsible for our ability to break food down in our gut, clean up oil spills, and break down our sewage. Yes, it does it all. There is only a small amount of bacteria strains that are actually harmful to us.
According to countless studies, plain good ol’ bar soap is as effective at killing bad bacteria as triclosan, the main chemical in antibacterial soaps.
Top 5 reasons to kick the triclosan habit.
1. Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than conventional soap and water. As mentioned in the announcement, 42 years of FDA research—along with countless independent studies—have produced no evidence that triclosan provides any health benefits as compared to old-fashioned soap.
“I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an antibacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families,” Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the FDA’s drug center, told the AP. “But we don’t have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water.”
Manufacturers say they do have evidence of triclosan’s superior efficacy, but the disagreement stems from the use of different sorts of testing methods. Tests that strictly measure the number of bacteria on a person’s hands after use do show that soaps with triclosan kill slightly more bacteria than conventional ones.
But the FDA wants data to show that this translates into an actual clinical benefit, such as reduced infection rates. So far, analyses of the health benefits don’t show any evidence that triclosan can reduce the transmission of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. This might be due to the fact that antibacterial soaps specifically target bacteria, but not the viruses that cause the majority of seasonal colds and flus.
2. Antibacterial soaps have the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The reason that the FDA is making manufacturers prove these products’ efficacy is because of a range of possible health risks associated with triclosan, and bacterial resistance is first on the list.
Heavy use of antibiotics can cause resistance, which results from a small subset of a bacteria population with a random mutation that allows it to survive exposure to the chemical. If that chemical is used frequently enough, it will kill other bacteria, but allow this resistant subset to proliferate. If this happens on a broad enough scale, it can essentially render that chemical useless against the strain of bacteria.
This is currently a huge problem in medicine—the World Health Organization calls it a “threat to global health security.” Some bacteria species (most notably, MRSA) have even acquired resistance to several different drugs, complicating efforts to control and treat infections as they spread. Health officials say that further research is needed before we can say that triclosan is fueling resistance, but several studies have hinted at the possibility.
3. The soaps could act as endocrine disruptors. A number of studies have found that, in rats, frogs, and other animals, triclosan appears to interfere with the body’s regulation of thyroid hormone, perhaps because it chemically resembles the hormone closely enough that it can bind to its receptor sites. If this is the case in humans too, there are worries that it could lead to problems such as infertility, artificially-advanced early puberty, obesity, and cancer.
These same effects haven’t yet been found in humans, but the FDA calls the animal studies “a concern” and notes that, given the minimal benefits of long-term triclosan use, it’s likely not worth the risk.
4. The soaps might lead to other health problems, too. There’s evidence that children with prolonged exposure to triclosan have a higher chance of developing allergies, including peanut allergies and Hay Fever. Scientists speculate that this could be a result of reduced exposure to bacteria, which could be necessary for proper immune system functioning and development.
Another study found evidence that triclosan interfered with muscle contractions in human cells, as well as muscle activity in live mice and minnows. This is especially concerning given other findings that the chemical can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream more easily than originally thought. A 2008 survey, for instance, found triclosan in the urine of 75 percent of people tested.
5. Antibacterial soaps are bad for the environment. When we use a lot of triclosan in soap, that means a lot of triclosan gets flushed down the drain. Research has shown that small quantities of the chemical can persist after treatment at sewage plants, and as a result, USGS surveys have frequently detected it in streams and other bodies of water. Once in the environment, triclosan can disrupt algae’s ability to perform photosynthesis.
The chemical is also fat-soluble—meaning it builds up in fatty tissues—so scientists are concerned that it can biomagnify, appearing at greater levels in the tissues of animals higher up the food chain, as the triclosan of all the plants and animals below them is concentrated. Evidence of this possibility was turned up in 2009, when surveys of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of South Carolina and Florida found concerning levels of the chemical in their blood.
Top 5 reasons to go retro with bar soap:
- Real bar soap is just as effective at removing germs and bacteria as branded antibacterial soap. Look at the ingredients, real soap will have saponified oils and or fats, stay clear of synthetic detergents like Cocamidopropyl betaine and Sodium laureth sulfate and perfumes.
- Bar soap has minimal packaging and is often compostable. Pangea’s is plantable!
- Bar soap does the least harm to our ecosystem. It starts breaking down within 48 hours after use.
- Well made bar soap is a perfect blend of beneficial saponified oils and will leave the skin hydrated and soft.
- Soap allows the beneficial bacterial to thrive, while lifting and removing potential harmful pathogens.
Save water, shower with a friend!