Antibacterials : Helpful or Harmful?Are antibacterial products doing more harm than good?
By: Paige Pagnotta and Hannah Thompson, Sibley Scribe
Antibacterial products are everywhere. Chances are you may have antibacterial lotions, soaps, or sanitizers in your possession as you read this article. Why may these products be harmful? Superbugs.
Antibacterial products are marketed to get rid of more bacteria than non-antibacterial products, and they do—but to an extreme. They advertise to destroy 99.9% of bacteria, which means a residue of .1% is still left behind. This small percentage may not seem like a big problem, but it survives and grows stronger and becomes resistant to antibiotics. These surviving bacteria, also called superbugs, cause infections or illness, and eventually will mutate to the point that there will not be antibiotics available to heal you. Because millions of people use antibacterial products, a worrisome amount of bacteria is becoming more resistant to even the most powerful medicines.
Antibacterial products not only kill the ‘bad’ bacteria that are undesirable, but they also kill the ‘good’ bacteria that live normally on our bodies without harming us. Killing 99.9% of bacteria isn’t always a useful thing because it doesn’t allow our immune system to be exposed to normal bacteria. By not exposing our bodies to this kind of bacteria, we become even more susceptible to infection and the bacteria poses an even greater threat because our immune systems don’t have the chance to create antibodies to protect against it.
Antibacterial products also contain various harmful ingredients such as dioxin and triclosan. Dioxin is a carcinogen (causes cancer), and is a component of triclosan. Triclosan, a chemical that takes a very long time to degrade, is polluting our bodies of water and even our own bodies. In one Swedish study (2002) three out of five breast milk samples contained triclosan. Usage of antibacterial products causes these chemicals to be absorbed through the bloodstream, which may have adverse effects on our bodies.
All in all, it is generally not beneficial for people to purchase antibacterial products, including soaps and sanitizers. There have been many studies that prove that soap and water work better at combating bacteria than hand sanitizers, but if no other options are available, try to use an alcohol based, non-antibacterial sanitizer. It’s best to avoid antibacterial products altogether to protect both yourself and the environment.