Germs are a big concern for many people. Hand wipes and antibacterial soaps are commonly found in hand bags and on sinks as we scrub and wipe at the sign of any possible contamination. The fear that a pathogenic organism might infect us has created multi-billion dollar industries specializing in antibacterial ingredients that are added to every day soaps and personal care products.
But did you know that washing your hands thoroughly for at least 15 seconds with warm soapy water is as effective as using antibacterial soap? And did you know that antibacterial soap may be contributing to the increase in antibacterial resistance and has been linked to the development of allergies? The antibacterial ingredient in soap—triclosan—was recently studied along with other chemicals commonly found in personal care products.
In the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, urine levels of seven endocrine disrupting chemicals (chemicals known to interfere with normal hormone function) were analyzed from 860 children aged 6 to 8. Levels of these chemicals were compared to blood levels of the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE), a common immune marker for allergies. The researchers found that those children who had the highest amounts of triclosan (a chemical also found in mouthwash and toothpaste) also had the highest IgE levels. In addition, those children with the highest levels of antibacterial parabens—propyl-paraben and butyl-paraben—had the highest levels of IgE antibodies to environmental allergens like pollen and pet dander.
Interestingly, the three chemicals found associated to allergy response all have antibacterial qualities. Senior researcher Corinne Keet from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center stated, “This finding highlights the antimicrobial properties of these agents as a probable driving force behind their effect on the immune system.”