As a society, we are obsessed with hygiene. Most of us wash our entire bodies at least once per day with hot, soapy water. Grocery store shelves are filled with antibacterial soaps that advertise they kill 99.9% of bacteria viruses. However, the testing of antibacterial soaps was not conducted on hands or kitchen surfaces. Instead, research was done in large pots where testers placed a large numbers of bacteria into liquid soap containing triclosan. After an hour, the solution was tested to see how many bacteria survive.
The safety of antibacterial soaps has never been tested. Triclosan, the most common active ingredient, has never been shown to be more effective than plain soap or even just hot water. After several years on the market Triclosan has been found in human fat tissue, umbilical cord blood, breast milk and nasal secretions. Approximately 75% of humans will pass it in their urine daily.
A clear correlation between triclosan exposure and an increased risk of infection has been documented. The greater the concentration of triclosan in nasal mucus, the higher the rate of colonization of Staphylococcus aureus. The resistant form of this bacteria you know as MRSA.
Triclosan has also been shown to interfere with the action of thyroid hormones, estrogen and testosterone. It is an endocrine disruptor at the level of the cell membrane.
In December of 2017, the FDA had a final ruling that limits the use of triclosan in certain OTC health care antiseptic products. They will not be able to use triclosan or any of the 23 other active ingredients used in antibacterial soaps “without a premarket review due to insufficient data regarding their safety and effectiveness”. Although the governor of Minnesota banned triclosan in all consumer products over concerns of bacteria developing resistance, the FDA failed to follow suit.
Microbes are not the enemy, bacteria help protect us from external threats. Our epithelial lining, both the skin and digestive tract are all inhabited by microbes. Without them, human life would cease to exist. There are more microbes present on the back of your hand then there are people in the world. The cells in the human body are outnumbered ten to one by the bacterial cells of the body.
Less the 100 microbes are estimated to be detrimental to human health. Most have forged symbiotic relationships with our bodies. And we have learned to co-exist with them over time.
Bacteria are able to adapt very quickly to changes in the environment. They can reproduce extremely fast – from minutes to hours. We, on the other hand, can take centuries to adapt. Microbes make us capable of surviving in our ever-changing environment.
The Bottom Line:
I attended another seminar on the microbiome over the weekend presented by Dr. Ronda Nelson. Much of the information in today’s blog comes from her introductory remarks. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will present more of this fascinating data.
As I have stated in previous blogs – scientists have asked us to quit thinking of ourselves as individuals, but rather as a commune in which we are the host of these microbes. I have resisted this concept until taking this last seminar.