When I was pregnant and attending a college campus, I regularly ran to the bathroom (good old morning sickness!) and washed my hands before leaving each time. After all, I didn’t want to get sick since I already verged on dehydration from an extreme form of morning sickness.
Each time, I would notice a change in my body after using the soap. My hands were unwarmable, the morning sickness became intolerable, and in general I felt worse after using it. It wasn’t like there were any other choices for me to pick from, so I continued to use it even after it made me sick. Unfortunately, I just attributed it to pregnancy issues, until one day during the first trimester I mentioned my discomfort after use to my husband, a former hospital dietitian.
He promptly flipped out in the nicest way possible and informed me that I should probably stop using the soap at school. Why? Because he had done his homework on the soap from the public soap dispensers and antibacterial foams a long time ago, and for good reason. He had the same symptoms from it, proving that it wasn’t just my pregnancy induced state. Some of these soaps contain an ingredient called triclosan, which until recently was seen as relatively harmless. Studies have shown reproductive and developmental risks to animals as well as humans – enough to merit further study (Source). With unexplained infertility becoming common, you can bet this is one of the many things I am personally eyeing as a potential cause.
You may not have heard of triclosan, and it is no small wonder why. Public knowledge of such a thing would hurt many a company’s bottom line and cause their sales to drop. There is no special reason to use the soaps that contain this ingredient, other than convenience. In fact, studies have shown that there are no proven benefits of using triclosan-laced soap over normal soap and warm water (Source). In fact, chronic exposure to triclosan is known to contribute to antibiotic resistance (Source). In addition, triclosan in a known cause of liver cancer in rats (Source).
While you may expect triclosan exposure to be relatively low, studies have shown that triclosan can be detected in human bodily fluids like breastmilk (Source). I’m pretty sure babies everywhere aren’t saying, “Yum, triclosan!”. Even if you aren’t worried about triclosan for yourself, you should be worried about it reaching wildlife as triclosan is very toxic to fish (Source).
Many folks have seen me out and about with my kiddo and after he plays on the floor, I don’t take him to the nearest antibacterial pump, I take him to the bathroom to scrub up with some plain soap and water. Since triclosan soap does not offer any benefits over regular soap and water and some evidence suggests that it may even be harmful and contribute to antibiotic resistance, I refuse to use it. So does the state of Minnesota, which has a statewide ban on the chemical going into effect next year (Source).
There have been promises of “more human studies” for years, but still nothing. As far as I am concerned, my family won’t be a part of the human science experiment in the meantime. We need clearer answers on what exactly we can expect from triclosan and its interaction with the human body, and even then I won’t begin using it again. My body was clearly telling me something from my previous use of it, and I intend to listen.
If you like using these soaps for convenience (I get it, I really do), there are antibacterial soaps without triclosan like this one: Finally Pure – Hunter’s Hand Sanitizer. If I was going to switch to using a hand sanitizer today, I’d chose this one. It has only three ingredients, all of which I know what they are, and is free of fragrance. UPDATE: I’ve also been recommended a few on-the-go soaps from Pure Haven Essentials! 🙂
For me, I prefer to carry a bar of soap in our diaper bag in a baggie. I think our culture really likes to over-complicate things by “simplifying” day-to-day tasks like washing your hands. Everything comes at a cost, whether it be your time, money, attention or health. Convenience is one of those things, and it usually costs us our health (think of fast food). In this scenario, I’d rather trade of few minutes of my time washing my toddler’s hands instead of bargaining with an unknown that could damage our health.
That said, I carry two different types of soap. I like nice smelling soap, and my favorite is Dr. Bronner’s Organic Rose Soap. It smells nice and feminine and has a short ingredient list compared to most scented soaps. 🙂 For my toddler, we use the fragrance free Kirk’s Natural Castile Soap. It has five ingredients and is very gentle on his skin.
I don’t miss antibacterial soap, especially since it made me feel sick. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach my son good hand washing skills very early in life and hope that they have a lasting effect on him and his health. I don’t write this to be judgmental, or harsh on others.
My hope is that this spreads awareness to the fact that many of the things we assume are safe have actually not been studied or proven to be, and even then, we all have different genetics that cause us to react differently. There are so many choices we have to make as parents each day, so many that they have to be prioritized. For us, this is a priority. Antibacterial soap isn’t worth the cost for us, but you’ll have to make the choice that is right for your family!
Disclaimer: I may receive compensation in the form of products, services or money to review or include a link to a product on this blog. If you would like to know more about this, please see my Disclosure & Policy. I will accept offers and/or promote products that I use and love. All opinions are my own and given honestly regardless of compensation.
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