Sunday, September 02, 2007

Anti-Bacterial Humbug


I've long suspected that anti-bacterial soaps were a bunch of hooey, so research findings like these, which conclude that plain old soap is just as effective in preventing disease as the antibacterial variety, don't surprise me in the least.

What I find amusing is how many journalists reporting on the findings (like the medical editor of the London Telegraph) immediate race to the flip side of the story and proclaim that antibacterial soaps just might, in fact, be bad for you, supposedly by helping build up antibacterial-resistant "super bugs".

If you read the studies' results closely, you'll see that no one has found real evidence that soap-inspired resistence is actually happening in the real world. Which makes sense. If the antibacterial compound in these soaps (triclosan) isn't in contact with your skin long enough to kill the bacteria then it's probably not around long enough to turn them into super bugs, either. One would think a reporter proclaiming the ineffectiveness of the soaps due to lack of real-world evidence would also insist on real-world evidence of soap-created resistance before running headlines about "Super Bugs". But one is often wrong.

In any event, I'm sticking with the old bar of Ivory next to my kitchen sink.

1 comment:

Pam said...

The problem with the triclosan is not that it causes the bacteria on your hand to build-up resistance, but that it goes down the drains of a gazillion homes, where it meets a bunch of bacteria in waste water treatment plants that build-up resistance and are subsequently released into the environment. It's downstream of your hands where the problem lies. Scientists are detecting this stuff in pretty high concentrations in rivers, etc now.

But yeah, washing your hand with regular old ivory works just as well, and most microbes are good anyway.

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