Common household products that people use to make them safe from infections appear to do more harm than good. Plain soap and warm water are perfectly adequate to clean hands and bodies without the anti-bacterial agents that are added, supposedly to make them more effective. One of the common ones is triclosan. Companies formerly used an antibacterial product called hexachlorophene, but it was suspected of being carcinogenic and caused neurological problems, so it was banned by the FDA in non-medicinal products (such as Dial Soap, which changed to triclosan).


Triclosan is not as effective as hexachlorophene as an antiseptic, but neither is it necessary for routine skin cleaning at home no matter how dirty your hands are. A new study evaluated children’s urinary levels of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), including triclosan, bisphenol A (BPA), and parabens (used as preservatives in many skin preparations, mouthwash, toothpaste, and shampoos, including some found in health food stores). The researchers then analyzed the number of children with allergies to airborne allergens and foods based on IgE antibody levels in the blood.


IgE levels were available for 860 children evaluated as part of the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that the odds of having at least one allergy-related IgE elevation was almost four times higher among male children with the highest levels of urinary triclosan compared to those with the lowest levels. (Savage JH et al., Urinary levels of triclosan and parabens are associated with aeroallergen and food sensitization. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Jun 14. [Epub ahead of print])


Parabens were also associated with an increase in allergy sensitization. Although BPA interferes with hormonal function, it was not associated with allergies in this study. It is a common chemical in plastics, including food storage containers (but BPA-free varieties are now available, and the labels will say “BPA free.”  Check labels of all cosmetics and other products to see if they contain parabens. Use non-anti-bacterial soaps and wash hands often, especially if using any public facilities. You can also use hand sanitizers, as they do not contain parabens or triclosan.


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