09:30 Natural Living & Health

Is Antibacterial Soap Bad for You and the Environment?

Trend – Increasing Use of Antibacterial Bar Soap and Body Wash

Approximately 75 percent of all liquid soaps and 30 percent of bar soaps are now antibacterial in the U.S.  Generally people think of the little antibacterial hand soap bottles, but recently even antibacterial bar and body wash soaps have come on the market from companies like Dial.  Germophobia and fear of catching colds and flu have contributed to an increase in the use of these antibacterial soaps, as well as companies using good marketing techniques to scared parents.

Triclosan – Main Ingredient & Toxin in Antibacterial Soaps 

Triclosan is a substance used to destroy and suppress bacterial and fungal growth.  It is used by these soaps to slow bacterial growth. However this is a problem, as it impedes the growth of good bacterial as well.  It is a chlorophenal compound that is part of a class of chemicals that has been suspected to cause cancer in people, although studies have not shown that it causes cancer directly.  It is similar to some very poisonous chemicals such as dioxins and PCB’s, and has been shown to depress the central nervous system.   The EPA has the chemical classified as a pesticide and claims that it is a risk to both human health and the environment.  Triclosan is also commonly found in deodorants, shave gels, and acne face wash soaps.

Limited Effectiveness, Harmful to Environment, and Super-germ Strains

Studies have shown that when compared to regular old soap, antibacterial soaps don’t provide any more protection against the cold or flu.   One study, from The Journal of Community Health in 2003, followed adults in 238 households in New York City for nearly a year.  The study concluded that there was no difference in the amount of microbes on the hands of those using antibacterial soap vs. those using regular soap.

Additionally, the chemical has been linked to a number of environmental problems.  When it goes down your sink or shower drain, it eventually ends up in streams, rivers, and farm fields.  Once there it can destroy the ecosystems by killing the bacteria in soil or water that is part of the food chain.  A majority of the chemicals are not removed during the sewage treatment process either.  It is estimated that tons of Triclosan end up on agricultural lands across the nation.

Finally, the use of antibacterial chemicals can lead to the development of more resistant strains of bacteria.  Evidence suggests that if the rapid use of these products continues, it will greatly contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant super germs

Summary – The Cons of Antibacterial Soap:


  • Kills skin cells
  • Dries and aggravates skin
  • Toxin


  • Can travel through sewer systems and harm land and water ecosystems
  • Could potentially contaminate human water and food sources

In the end, antibacterial soap just doesn’t stack up to a quality bar soap.  It’s more expensive, ineffective over time, contains dangerous chemicals and builds resiliency in bacteria.  Instead, go for a bar of Dr. Squatch soap and wash away germs the way we have for hundreds of years.

So what do you think, is Antibacterial Soap Bad for You? Are the benefits worth the potential risks?

NIAID “E. coli Bacteria” CC 2.0/Cropped

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