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Antibacterial Soap: Good or Bad?

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posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 04:11 PM
I'd like to ask your opinions on antibacterial products:

  • Is antibacterial soap good or bad?

  • What about all the stores using antibacterial hand sanitizer now?

  • ...or the handy little antibacterial wipes people are keeping on them?

  • At what point are we doing too much harm to the good bacteria that keep us humans healthy?

  • And what is the impact on the ecosystem with so much antibacterial waste in our water and landfills?

  • Can you see why I'm concerned?

  • posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 04:17 PM
    I'm not usually one to answer a question with a question, but in this case it seems to fit...

    What facilities are the most bacterial free?

    In what facilities are they finding super resistant strains of bacteria?

    The answer to both is hospitals, and they've been using anti-bacterial soaps much longer than they've been on the market for consumers.

    Mother nature is a system of checks and balances, you can't remove one thing and not expect another thing to replace its absence.

    [edit on 23-8-2007 by Nemithesis]

    posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 04:19 PM
    Yes I totally understand your concerns. I believe the anti bacterial products have special purposes and should only be used for these special purposes. Desinfecting wounds or after handling something really bad (a dead rat or something).

    If you use these products to often they may result in excema (sorry if the spelling isn't correct) Aspecially for people with a sensitive skin and childeren under the age of 12.

    A perfectly natural and harmless desinfectant would be alcohol.. this would do no damage to the ecosystem.


    posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 04:32 PM
    Simple answer or maybe a question - what volume would an anti bacterial have an impact on landfill ? Well given the volume of landfill in the UK at least and the proportion of decomposition it would take a few container loads to affect the current composition of UK waste and i would guess US.

    The principal problem of landfill is leachate production leading to meathane gas and leachate. If a fewl hundred baggieis of antisan were to turn up in a landfill this would actually be seen as a good thing - leacate costs the UK waste business a fortune every year trying to stop it seeping into groundwater reserves and creating "Landfill Gas" - most of which is burnt off.

    Killing off the anerobic decomposition of waste is actually a benefit to a landfill site and the net result of anti septic products in waste - and a net benefit to the composition of a site - though it does harm the composting effects.

    posted on Aug, 23 2007 @ 04:56 PM
    reply to post by Silk

    I had no idea about leachate in the landfill, but am curious if the tradeoff of an easy solution to the leachate problem is worth the risk of not being able to break down our waste?

    We can probably assume that rather several large containers being dumped in a spot all at once, that there would be a fairly homogenous distribution of, say, x numbers of antibacterial product in every 100 cubic feet.

    What would the saturation point be where the rate of decomposition was halted due to the bacteria's inability to digest the waste?

    Or for that matter, not halting, but simply slowing it down to an incredible degree. What are the rammifications of the Earth's normally easily compostable waste being slowed down from a few months to hundreds of years? thousands of years? Is that even possible? Probable?

    posted on Aug, 24 2007 @ 01:14 AM

    Originally posted by ambushrocks
    A perfectly natural and harmless desinfectant would be alcohol.. this would do no damage to the ecosystem.


    Any type of hand sanitizer or antibacterial skin treatment uses isopropyl alcohol as the active ingredient.

    Triclosan is the main ingredient in most soaps, and namely 'Clean n Clear' facial wash. Not so readily broken down by the environment either.

    A few soaps use tetrasodium EDTA as the active ingredient, which appears to be more safe for the 'environment'. l

    posted on Aug, 24 2007 @ 08:37 AM
    I appreciate the new insights on this. It's one of those subjects that I really can't make up my mind about. It seems to cause new problems, but part of me can't help but wonder if perhaps while creating new problems, it also solves a lot of other problems. Seems most plagues are spread through poor sanitation standards.

    Currently, I use a lot of antibacterial products. I mean, not nut-job wise, but antibacterial dish-soap, hand-soap, and bar-soap. When I go to the grocery store, I use the little wipe-thingy on the push-bar of the cart. I've been going about this for a little over a year now, and I haven't caught a cold in the entire time, to my recollection. Whereas before, I suffered from a cold about once a quarter at least. So it seems to have cut way down on the amount I get sick.

    However, within the same time-frame, and starting since about the same time, I've more or less had a constantly stuffy nose. Not sure if it's related, and if so, how, but there you have it.

    posted on Aug, 24 2007 @ 08:41 AM
    I heard some guy on the news say that there were certain bacteria that we need, so I've gone back to using regular soap for the most part. I use an antibacterial bar of soap when I shower, but that's it.


    posted on Aug, 24 2007 @ 10:28 AM
    In medical circles, the widespread use of antibacterials where not needed, has been blamed for the evolution of super bugs.
    Those nasty multi resistant organisms develop after they build up immunity because they are exposed to the same substance again and again.
    Much like those damn cockroaches that build up immunity to bug spray.
    There are plenty of times when antibacterials are great - when needed.
    People just need to wash their hands more and use common sense, not overkill.

    posted on Aug, 26 2007 @ 07:55 AM
    Doesn't work any better than washing your hands correctly(warm water, soap and scrubbing effort). However, if you have no water, the evoporating gel is handy.

    posted on Aug, 27 2007 @ 07:05 AM
    Dear All

    Antibacterial (bacteriostatic / bacteriocidal)

    There are many phrases and words being used in this discussion (excellent topic btw). I think some clarity is in order:

    Anything that kills bacteria can be described as antibacterial, this could be oxygen, water, nitrogen (by lack of oxygen), heat, dryness etc etc etc.

    Some things only hold the numbers of bacteria at the current level i.e the fridge.....(low temperatures for bugs that like RT- Room Temp)

    these can be said to be bacteriostatic.

    Some reduce numbers (water etc)

    these can be said to be bacteriocidal

    The degree to which these agents or physicochemical states (sorry bit techy meaning non chemical) affect bugs differs from bug to bug.

    These are usually gross protoplasmic poisons or agents of total cell lysis, (shuts em down or bursts the little devils)

    Bacteria have to date not shown any tendencies to resist these agents via gene mediated resistance.
    They are also generally toxic to humans as well. Gluteraldehyde, HOCL- (bleach etc)

    Some work in the presence of other matter (gunk etc) some do not. Some are bacteriocidal and some bacteriostatic (depends on bug and gunk load)


    This term is usually restricted to low concentration (not toxic to humans at that level) disinfectants used on (not in) humans. Definitions are same as above.


    Agent that kills bugs (more complex but will do for the explanation) these are not gross protoplasmic poisons and not always toxic to humans (sometimes - Gentomycin for example).

    These are subject to gene mediated devleopment of resistance. BIG PROBLEM


    Generally an agent that reduces bug numbers and is used in the presence of gunk (spill kits wipes etc.)

    As you can see the topic is not a simple one and I wanted the posters to be aware of the meanings of the words they are using.

    In general my position on all this is quite simple. In fact I used it 23 years ago for a thesis summary.

    What better way to make money is there than to convince the public that a problem exists and then to sell them a product that they promptly flush down the sink or toilet. The reason that this makes sense to businesses is that less than 24 hrs after flushing their product down the loo you need to do it again as the numbers are right back where they started.

    My position on use of them is also simple: Use as few as possible they are all toxic to a degree.

    Commensal bugs (the good ones anyway) are much easier to kill than pathogenic ones (the bad ones), they also tend to grow more quickly and out compete the bad for scarce natural resources (body gunk and stuff) so let them do the job they have been doing for millenia.

    I would reduce the use of disinfectants and sanitisers (as defined above) to places of absolute need (hospitals, pharma plants etc) and everyone else use soap and water (works great by the way). That cuts down the waste landfill issue.

    Antibacterial soaps are already antibacterial as a facet of being a soap. The antibacterial bit is a marketing tool. (shame it worked).

    Antibiotics has been discussed to death on other threads although disposal of unused ones is an issue.

    Someone pointed out earlier that from a microbiological point of view hospitals are dirty places. I wonder why ......

    I hope that helps, if it doesn't I am sure someone will tell me so.

    posted on Aug, 27 2007 @ 07:19 AM
    In many ways this is just another endeavor in humans' neverending need for neatness.

    We for some constantly seek to desensitize ourselves from things that has a need to be in our life. Fx in Denmark a lot of the old playgrounds have demolished because they were a hazard for the kids O_o I mean... being subjected to hazards like playgrounds, climbing trees and so are basicly what made my generation so robust and fit for fight.
    Kids are being cuddled up too much because we have to little to worry about and fight for anymore...

    Now the soap thing is just another chapter. However that doesn't make it alright.

    We have subjected ourselves to germs and bacteria throughout history and that has made our immune system strong. Bacteria is actually what is making us get through diseases in the end.
    Take the example of vacinations. You spray a miniscule amount of disease into your body and the body then develops antibodys for that particular disease. Now that is neat...
    Our skin is basicly alive from small germs and bacteria. Even after you wash it wont take long before they are at it again, and let's face it, how often do you get sick from those little cute germs? I know I haven't been ill for the last two years, except from slight dizzyness.
    So why the hype of getting ourselves cleaner? Now please don't go argue that "oh, this could be great for third world countries etc etc." cause we all know that this kind of soap will never reach the general population there.
    This kind of soap is being manufactured to supply the demand of a created demand from the public of western countries... more scare tactics from the medicin industry to make easy money on ignorant people.

    Once I read about a guy who was very fond of snakes and he ended up making himself immune to a specific snake by subjecting himself to tiny amounts of the venom from the snake and over time increasing the amount.

    Another story, can't remember who told it was about this couple who had a baby and they let their pet lick it and spend a lot of time with it, and as it turned out that baby never got sick...

    Now if that isnt reasons not to use this kind of soap I don't know what is. I for one will certainly never buy it...
    hail to the germ.

    posted on Aug, 27 2007 @ 01:36 PM
    I concur with Deharg on this one as there are several seperate discussions going on in this thread. Most bacteria that are found on human skin or in areas of the human body like the digestive tract are generally harmless or beneficial. For instance, some Anaerobic bacteria found in the digestive tract are responsible for the breakdown of important nutrients such as carbohydrates, which the human body is not able to digest on its own. Elimination of these important bacterological flora can have lasting damage to the body. To this degree the overuse of Antibacterials can have some harmful longer term side effects that include resistance and mutation to pathogens. When using a common antibacterial soap or wipe the agents found in it typically kill off the bacteria very rapidly, which does not allow them enough time to develop a resistance. Most human resistance to a specific agent is a slow process over a long period of time using very low levels of bacteria killing chemicals. In turn, this also means that current laboratory trials show very few resistance building bacteria continuing to reproduce when exposed to the high levels of chemicals found in most common antibacterials. Future clinical trials may show different results however, as most household antibacterials are fairly new to their environment.

    The biggest problem that could arise with Antibacterials is when we use them to rid ourselves of the good bacteria that protect against Bacterial pathogens that cause Tetanus, Syphilis, Cholera, Anthrax, Salmonella, etc. The elimination of beneficial bacteria in the human body can effectively negate the process of Competitive Exclusion and give a pathogen larger room to reproduce through binary fission, whereby the organism is able to reproduce and divide extremely fast. In addition, recent advancements in using Bacteriophages (virus that infects bacteria) and Antibiotics to stop infections with pathogens appear to have a longer lasting and more potent effect than other means. Specifically, Daptomycin and Linezolid are two new classes of antibiotic treatments that may help prevent bacterial resistance. Here is further information on these:

    Antibiotics against Bacteriological resistance

    While antibacterials do not currently seem to be in direct relation with bacterial resistance it should be noted that their overuse in relatively low amounts could contribute significantly to this problem. Many people in the medical field including those that work for the NIH, CDC, and FDA have realized that people are substituting these products as a false sense of security. Generally antibacterials and the like should only be used in a healthcare environment, and their continued use in the public sector may have detrimental physical and psychological affects.

    posted on Aug, 27 2007 @ 02:03 PM
    I love bacteria. A human being has 10 times the amount of bacteria cells then human cells. It's natural. Most of it isn't necessarily good bacteria... it's pretty neutral, but what's good about it is that it occupies the space that keeps the bad bacteria out.

    Also, ever since I stopped using anti-bacterial soap on my face, i've gotten less acne.

    [edit on 27-8-2007 by curiousbeliever]

    posted on Oct, 28 2008 @ 04:28 PM
    excellent info! i was just about to create a thread about this, but i was going to include these links:

    The main ingredient in most liquid soaps lining store shelves is triclosan, a pesticide that kills bacteria. Turns out you just need to banish germs from your hands, not kill them. Studies show that antibacterial soaps aren’t more effective at preventing illness or removing germs than good old-fashioned soap and water.

    In fact, antibacterial soaps may do more harm than good.

    There are concerns that triclosan may contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s also present in human bodies and breast milk, as well as in streams. The Environmental Working Group says triclosan has been linked to developmental defects, liver toxicity, and cancer in lab studies. It also may [will] affect thyroid and other hormones that are crucial to normal development.

    ...A quick read of the label will tell you if triclosan or triclocarban (a similar compound that’s found more commonly in bar soaps) are active ingredients. If so, move onto another product.

    Antibacterial soaps that contain triclosan as the main active ingredient are no better at preventing infections than plain soaps, say University of Michigan researchers who reviewed 27 studies conducted between 1980 and 2006 to reach their conclusion.

    The team also concluded that these antibacterial soaps could actually pose a health risk, because they may reduce the effectiveness of some common antibiotics, such as amoxicillin.

    That’s because — unlike antibacterial soaps used in hospitals and other clinical settings — the antibacterial soaps sold to the public don’t contain high enough concentrations of triclosan to kill bacteria such as E. coli.

    ...I take comfort in a study I read a few years ago when I’m in the park bathroom with no soap. The study suggested that equally important to scrubbing your hands with soap is keeping them underwater for a long enough period of time. Running water on your hands for a full minute was found to be almost as effective in washing away bacteria as soap. It may not be true, but I choose to believe it when I’m in dire settings.

    CDC research on a broad cross-section of the population detected triclosan in the urine of 75% of 2,517 Americans (Calafat 2007). Higher levels of triclosan were typically found in higher income participants. An earlier study spearheaded by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found triclosan in the urine of 61% of 90 girls age 6 to 8 (Wolff 2007).


    Lab studies link triclosan to cancer, developmental defects, and liver and inhalation toxicity. A secret study by Colgate scientists revealed exposure to low levels of triclosan caused liver tumors in mice (See 1996). Colgate refuses to release this study to EPA for evaluation, though it provided it to FDA in order to ensure it could add triclosan to toothpaste and other oral care products. Based on the study summary alone, and using a controversial assumption about the way this type of liver tumor forms in mice, EPA classified triclosan as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans” (EPA 2008). This decision flows in part from EPA’s lack of regulatory authority to demand release of Colgate’s findings, a clear indication of the need for reform of the U.S. system of chemical health protections.

    ...The amount of triclosan in wastewater is estimated to be as much as 3 to 5 milligrams per person per day from residences alone (McAvoy 2002); in addition, substantial discharges are expected from laundries, hair salons, medical facilities, and other sites. Optimized water treatment can remove up to 95% of triclosan (Samsøe-Petersen 2003); however, EWG research confirms that some triclosan persists despite treatment and enters receiving waters (EWG/EBMUD 2007).


    Studies indicate that in surface waters, triclosan can interact with sunlight and microbes to form methyl triclosan, a chemical that may bioacummulate in wildlife and humans (Adolfsson-Erici 2002; Lindstrom 2002)... Few studies have probed the toxicological effects of methyl triclosan, but a recent publication reveals that the transformation product triggers acute toxic effects in the marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri at levels significantly lower than does triclosan (Farré 2008).

    Triclosan also can degrade into a form of dioxin, a class of chemicals linked to a broad range of toxicities including cancer (Lores 2005). The Canadian government limits the levels of dioxins allowed as impurities in personal care products that contain triclosan. New research shows that triclosan in tap water can react with residual chlorine from standard water disinfecting procedures to form a variety of chlorinated byproducts at low levels, including chloroform, a suspected human carcinogen (Fiss 2007).

    and finally, in .pdf format...
    Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky?

    [edit on 28-10-2008 by adrenochrome]

    posted on Oct, 28 2008 @ 05:29 PM
    From my experience they work. I have rarely been ill in the past 10-years since I started using antibacterial soap. Whereas before, I routinely went to the Dr. 4+ times a year. With increasingly resistant strains (resistant because of Dr.'s over prescribing antibiotics) of bacteria and an increasingly populated world, I would say that using antibacterials is a good idea. It will not weaken your immune system. Keep in mind, you would probably only need to use them after interacting with the public. Especially after going to the grocery store or any busy public place where doors, etc. ate not automated. Also any place that dirty, grimy, filthy disease vectors (i.e., children) may frequent.

    EDIT: I just wanted to add that simply washing your hands with any soap will work just fine. It's just easier to use antibacterial, as it usually comes in liquid form.

    [edit on 28-10-2008 by Aggie Man]

    posted on Oct, 28 2008 @ 10:15 PM
    reply to post by adrenochrome

    I've been thinking we needed a thread about this for some time; thanks for digging this one up. I hope it gets new attention.

    People get so upset about vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, but they never seem to question the chemicals we use on our skin and in our house. And I don't think that Johnson & Johnson or Colgate Palmolive are all that much less objectionable than Merck or Wyeth in their sales strategies, disregard for human welfare, and environmental practices.

    Plus, unless you have a compromised immune system or work with people who do, there's really no need for antibacterial everything.

    posted on Oct, 28 2008 @ 10:23 PM
    reply to post by americandingbat

    Thanks, you stated my opinion perfectly.

    Unless there is an actual risk presented to the body, I think it's actually more detrimental to overload on the antibiotic products. The body actually stays more healthy if the immune system is constantly presented with minor challenges.

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