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When all the moms are emphasizing on the importance of washing hands with an antibacterial soap, I am saying "No, its not recommended". Hand washing is a good habit but you will be shocked to know why not to use an antibacterial soap or a sanitizer. A US FDA advisory committee found that washing with antibacterial soap is no better than washing with a regular soap. And if antibacterial soaps and sanitizers have more side effects than effects, why prefer them over regular soap at all ? The following are the harmful effects of using antibacterial soaps:
They can cause hormonal disruptions
The active component in most antibacterial soaps is either Triclosan or Triclocarban. Most antibacterial soaps leave behind a residue even after washing. Studies have shown that even low levels of Triclosan can interfere with the body's regulation of thyroid hormone.
They have the potential to create super bugs
Heavy use of antibacterial soap does the same damage as misuse of antibiotics. It gives rise to aggressive resistant bacteria. Over the years, these resistant bacteria turn into super bugs - those which have no known cure.
They aggravate allergic reaction
Constant washing with antibacterial soap robs the skin of good bacteria too. Children with prolonged exposure to Triclosan have higher chances of developing allergies and hay fever.
They are bad for the environment
The water used while washing with an antibacterial soap gets flushed down the drain. Waste water treatment does not remove all of Triclosan. Surveys have detected the chemical in streams and other water bodies from where they then enter the food chain.
Alcohol based sanitizers require no water and can be used on the go. Its easy to use them but they are not so easy on the kids. The following are the side effects of sanitizers :
It can have long lasting effects
Bisphenol A is an active component in hand sanitizers. Eating meals just after using a sanitizer can result in double dose (through the skin and through the mouth) of absorption of this chemical. This increases the risk of obesity, infertility and even cancer.
It lowers the child's immunity
Ultraclean environment lowers the child's immunity to such an extent that the body's defence mechanism works overtime leading to weakened immunity.
It is toxic
Even a small amount of sanitizer if licked by a child can cause dizziness, disorientation or slurred speech. The fruity fragrance of sanitizers can tempt children to drink it. If ingested, the alcohol poisoning can be severe.
If you really must use antibacterial soaps, use them only :
1) if your child has come in contact with a sick/infected person
2) after using the toilet
3) after outdoor play if it involves digging into the mud
4) if your child has touched an animal
So, let operation theatres be sterile and not our homes unless there is a new born baby at home. I am not promoting a filthy lifestyle. I am only highlighting the difference between cleanliness and sterilization. Germs have been with us since time immemorial and we can't eliminate them altogether. By overusing antibacterial soaps, germs are only becoming resistant and stronger by the day. Hand washing is indeed a way to a healthy life. But washing with a regular soap would suffice most of the time.
Before my kids were born, I used to be such a cleanliness freak that my friends used to tease me saying "I hope you don't give your baby to a laundry if he/she gets dirty". From being 'Monica' to a cautious mom, its been a long journey. Even now I am obsessed with washing hands but not with an antibacterial soap. A market for these products exist because consumers exist. Antibacterial products are prohibited in many developed countries. India still has a long way to go even in terms of taking strict measures when actual composition is not mentioned on the product's cover. Dear mommies, should we wait for the ban to stop using them ? Or should we use our discretion while using these products ?
Note : I am not a doctor, not even a biology student. This is just one of the topics I had researched on earlier because I care for my children's future as much as I care for their present.